There's a common misperception surrounding beauty standards and the black woman.
Historically, black women have been the "purveyors of curves," which includes our thick thighs, small waists, big butts, big breasts, and full lips. I would say I have 4 out of 5. But just like all of us aren't naturally blessed with an abundance of tits and ass, all of us aren't blessed with a Kerry Washington pout. While many women of color are fortunate to naturally be shaped like a "brick house" with body and lips galore, not everyone has that genetic makeup.
It was one of the reasons I found myself sitting in the doctor's office last December, waiting to get lip injections. Yes, you read that right, lip injections.
I'm not sure where my dislike for my lips began – or if I would even call it a "dislike." I think I first started noticing I wasn't happy with them four years ago. It was January 2014 and my shoulder-length hair, that I had long associated with being a woman, had fallen out after trusting the wrong stylist. Without my hair, I became more aware of my face shape and the strength of my features. I looked more androgynous and felt that, along with my hair, my femininity now evaded me.
Lip injections wasn't the first place that my mind went to help me feel a little more womanly.
I started with my brows. As an entertainment journalist who does a lot of on-camera celebrity interviews at press junkets and the like, I had begun to feel like something was missing. After failing miserably a handful of times to fill in my brows myself, a makeup artist suggested I look into microblading, a process that would permanently fill in my brows. Call me naive but it was shocking to me to learn that many people were waking up with full brows as the result of microblading. After researching the procedure, I had my brows tattooed (known as "powder brow") in July 2016.
With my hair slowly growing back and my new eyebrows on fleek, I was also interested in fuller lips in hopes of looking less androgynous and more feminine. It was around that time that I started seeing fuller lips start to trend, so much so that every cosmetic brand seemed to be coming out with their own version of an "injection gloss," promising fuller lips. I have lips, but I wouldn't have minded them being a little more pronounced.
Out of curiosity, I purchased several of these glosses, but quickly discovered they were just a gimmick and a waste of money.
Still, I tried to be content with my small lips and I looked for "natural" remedies for fuller lips, which included homemade concoctions like mixing coconut oil with cayenne pepper. I quickly grew tired of trying to mix potions in the kitchen, so I decided to up the ante and look into more long-term options.
I had known about lip injections for a minute, but admittedly, I second guessed my desire to have them as a real possibility because I was convinced it was something black women didn't "do."
But, I found a handful of beauty vloggers online that were women of color that showed me differently. Dymond Goods, AliyahsFace, and DollFaceBeautyx were all transparent about their journeys and experiences with lip fillers. And their transparency helped to further affirm that I wanted my lips done too.
New year, new lips was the motto. I made my appointment for December 19 at LaserAway in Santa Monica where, one of the beauty vloggers that inspired my decision, Dymond Goods, had gotten her lips done. As I sat with the ice pack on my mouth and waited for the nurse to prep the needle, I thought briefly about the harsh comments I'd probably be met with for choosing to be candid about my experience:
"But your lips were fine…"
"You should just be happy with what God gave you…"
"Embrace your natural beauty…"
"You're black, your lips are already full!"
"You must not love yourself if you would alter yourself…"
I believe it's semantics to say it's "okay" to take a needle to permanently put ink on your body or holes through your ears, nose or belly button, yet it's abhorrent to take a needle with a natural acid that's also used medically to temporarily enhance your lips.
Note: lip fillers are not permanent.
The product used was Juvederm Ultra, which is made of hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring component within your body.
So, lip injections only last about six months to a year as the product dissolves and your lips will return to their normal size if you choose not to get a refill. The time it takes for the product to dissolve is also dependent upon how much is used in the procedure. I only used half a syringe because I didn't want my lips to look obnoxiously obvious. But the results are so subtle that my roommate who's been my friend for over ten years hasn't noticed.
Weeks later, I confidently say that I plan to go back to LaserAway to finish the syringe. Having gone through the thirty-minute process once and the pain of the needle being a 5 out of 10, I think my lips can be even fuller.
Left - Before Lip Injections, Right - After Lip Injections
In speaking with Dymond prior to my procedure about criticism she's received online, she poignantly reiterated that "Self-improvement isn't self-hate," and I wholeheartedly agree.
There was once a time when I was self-conscious about my skin tone and my weight, but I'm so elated to have come to a really great space of self-love. Long before the lip injections, I came to a place of wholeness where I began to walk into a room with a big blonde Afro, red lipstick and my best accessory, my self-confidence.
Just like my eyebrows, fuller lips simply help to further accentuate my look, it's an accessory.
Regardless of what objections others may have, I encourage you to do whatever helps you to feel like your best self. Sometimes it's as simple as getting your hair done, beating your face, or buying designer clothes. Other times feeling like your best self may be a more invasive process like braces to fix a crooked smile, and for others it's liposuction or breast implants.
Regardless of what your "fix" may be, we have one life to live, do whatever makes you happy.
Would you consider getting lip injections? Why or why not? Sound off in the comment section below.
If you thought that only women abstained from sex in an effort to wait for the one man to create their soul tie with, then you're in for a surprise!
JimDre Westbrook, aka "Worth The Wait Guy," has made national headlines for being a 30+ year old virgin. Women are searching high and low and swiping right trying to catch a man who meets their list of marriage material credentials: a tall, attractive, college-educated, Black man with a perfect smile. Oh, and not to mention someone who isn't in these streets adding to his body count. So how is it that a man like JimDre--who meets all of the above--has been able to abstain from sex in the prime of his life?
Let's just say that his unwavering faith and undeniable self-discipline has kept him from taking a dip into the pool of temptation.
At the age of 14, JimDre made a vow that he would honor his body until marriage, and attributes his personal and professional success to having Jesus on the mainline. Abstaining from sex hasn't meant that JimDre's life is perfect. After his 30th birthday, when he went public with his story and initially became the “Worth The Wait Guy," he was in a near-fatal car accident where he was hit by a drunk driver. It totaled his car, but he walked away with only a few scratches. Instead of wondering why the God he so faithfully served would allow that to happen, JimDre looked at the accident as a blessing. He believes that it was God telling him that he was on the right path.
Even his younger sister, Jae, believes that he's "worth the wait." Earlier this year, she reached out to us advocating for her big brother. "I watched [my brother] boldly proclaim to the world via Facebook that he was a virgin at the age of 30-years-old. As his little sister and best friend, I knew this all along and of course, fully supported his decision. He did what he felt was right and believes that God put us on earth to share our gifts. His actions were nothing new to me. He made a special vow to God at age 14 to remain a virgin until marriage. Growing up he always encouraged me to follow my dreams, be a leader and have the courage to go right when everyone else goes left."
Being “Worth The Wait Guy" and proclaiming his love for the Lord continues to open doors for JimDre, who's been a guest on The Steve Harvey Show, The Tom Joyner Morning Show as well as been featured in Essence, Ebony and Jet magazines, to name a few.
We admit to becoming a little curious as well! So we reached out to JimDre (not on the "Hotline Bling") to discuss the criticism that he's faced being a virgin with tattoos, why men look at sex as a sport, and to get some must-read insight as to why women need to stop settling for “Netflix and Chill."
From a young age those who grow up in the church or in religious families are taught that sinning is inevitable, but that if we repent and ask for forgiveness, GOD will still loves us. Do you feel that abstaining from sex brings you any closer to God than someone who engages in premarital sex?
I don't think because I'm a virgin and a Christian that I'm better than anyone else; I don't think that it makes me feel a different way than the normal or average Christian. But I do think it makes sure that I have a direct and present relationship with God, which I think is the most important thing if you're a believer. My relationship with him has been tied to my abstaining and waiting for my wife. That doesn't mean that I'm perfect, I'm still human. However, I believe my choice to not have sex makes my particular relationship stronger with Him.
In the Bible, Leviticus 19:28 says, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves." Are there people who think that you are being hypocritical for choosing to uphold some aspects of scripture and not others?
All my tattoos have meaning, and as mentioned, I'm not perfect. I made a personal choice to have tattoos that tell the story of my life. On my left side, I have a tat representing my fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi and my alma mater, University of Michigan, as well as a cross to represent my relationship with God. I plan to finish my left side whenever I have a wife and kids. The tattoos on my right side tell the story of my success, the businesses that I own, and remind me of how far I've come.
I've definitely been approached by people who question if I'm really a virgin and a Christian because I have tattoos. Me being “Worth The Wait Guy" is me being the vessel to tell others it's cool to live at your own pace and keep God first. People always want to challenge me about it, but God has always been my foundation, it's an interesting dynamic.
I'm sure you're familiar with "Netflix and Chill" where there isn't any courtship, it's just men and women hanging out and engaging in sexual acts. Why do you think so many women are so willing to settle for short-term affection?
Women get frustrated, especially the good, quality women who don't want to settle, who have high respect and high regards for themselves. But they just aren't finding what they want and what they deserve. As time goes by and they aren't getting exactly what they feel they need, they choose to settle. These great women end up entertaining guys who oftentimes aren't on their level--who don't even deserve a 'hello' from them, but they're persistent. If we want something, we go for it. If a guy wants you, your conversation, your time, if he wants to be something to you, he's going to be very clear about his intentions.
I often hear women say that "all the good guys are taken," but can't help but to think that maybe they haven't done the work to figure out why they're continuously attracting the same type of man. A lot of women get complacent because they don't want to be alone so they start lowering their standards.
That's how you end up having so many short-term "hookups" where you're telling a guy to come through because you're frustrated with what your life looks like and you've gotten off track from waiting for the real prize.
You have to stay focused and have faith. That's one of the reasons why I can be a 31-year-old virgin, because I've never lost faith. Of course, there have been times when I say, 'God I'm still here, hope you haven't forgotten about me! You can bring 'her' to me whenever you want.' You're going to get down on yourself, and you may wonder why it's taking so long. But you have to wait on God.
He's always on time and he's going to deliver on his promises when you're ready!
You have to be ready for the specific things that you're asking God to give you. And you have to ask yourself, what are you really doing with your life to get ready to receive what you're asking for?
To your understanding, why do guys feel the need to have sex with so many women and compare body counts? Why is sex such a sport for men?
Not to say that women aren't competitive, but men are competitive about everything. Most of us played sports growing up where we we're taught to be better than the next man. From birth we learn that in playing a game the objective is to get somewhere before the next person. As it pertains to women, a lot of men look at it like it's a game, and if the objective is to be “the man," how can I do that if I only have one girl? The more women you're involved with means the more “game" you have. It gives you leverage and it means you have options. It also makes some men feel like they're an “expert" when it comes to women because they've been with so many.
I, on the other hand, don't look at it like that. It's not hard to engage women in conversations and date multiple women; the challenge is trying to put all of that time and effort into one woman because now you're dealing with real feelings. You're getting into what most men don't want to deal with because when you're playing all of these games and juggling all these women, there isn't any depth to that.
Sex is oftentimes just competition with men to one up our friends.
It's just a pressure that's been placed on us from a young age but if you don't buy into that and you live at your own pace then you're okay with your one girlfriend and not out chasing multiple women. Choose to make that decision for yourself then you don't have to do what everyone else is doing.
It seems easier said than done to abstain from sex once you've been sexually active. What advice do you have for women, or even young men, who have been sexually active but want to figure out how to begin abstaining?
Pray about it. If you believe in God you have to take this to Him because if you try to figure it out by yourself, it's just not gonna happen. Be open, honest and transparent about your intentions. If a man wants to give up and abstain from sex, he has to pray for guidance and discipline, then he'll get the love and support he needs from God. Whether or not you go to church, you can always pray. Then you have to make changes in your everyday life. If you spent your free time engaging in sexual activity now you need to figure out something constructive to do with your time. Whether it's going to the gym, taking a class, doing community service, whatever. You need a plan so you're not idle and you can remain steadfast and faithful to your goal.
You're the co-owner of a clothing line, LAYOP (Live At Your Own Pace). There's always been unwritten rules about what you should have accomplished at a particular age, and social media adds to those pressures. Can you speak to how we can "Live At [Our] Own Pace" without seeming less ambitious or less accomplished as our peers?
Live At Your Own Pace clothing is about doing what makes you happy in life. Growing up we're told, that we're supposed to graduate college at 22, have the perfect job by 25, get married by 28 and have all of your kids by 32 everyone paints that picture of how life is supposed to happen if you want to win. The LAYOP movement is rooted in the story of the tortoise and the hare. You may not get where you want as fast as your peers or as fast as your parents want you to get there, but all that matters is that you're living a happy life. If you live at your own pace, you're going to win.
What are some of your go-to scriptures that have helped you throughout your celibacy?
Romans 12:1-2 talks about keeping your body pure in God's perfect and pleasing will, not conforming to the world because your body is a living and holy sacrifice. I've sacrificed my body by not having sex and giving that to God because that's his perfect and pleasing will. Again, I'm not perfect, but the type of relationship I have with God I want to keep that as pure as I can.
At times, we're all going to miss the mark, but I'm the “Worth The Wait Guy" because I know God is worth the wait, and I want Him to always know that.
It's one of those scriptures that's helped me to maintain the path that I've been walking on. Now if abstinence or celibacy isn't necessarily for you and you just need a verse to uplift you, Proverbs 3:5-6: 'Trust in the Lord with everything you do and do not to lean into your own understanding. Acknowledge Him and He'll direct your path." Those verses apply to your everyday life. It doesn't matter what you're doing, God should always be present. If He's with you, you can't lose.
You can learn more about JimDre by visiting his website Worththewaitguy.com
Update: It's been two years since we first featured JimDre and he is still walking in celibacy. He recently posted on Instagram:
When I had the pleasure to share my story with @xonecole two years ago to this day. A lot has changed since this day. I'm way closer to God, my celibacy walk has strengthened, my divine purpose has realized and I even grew a decent beard. The wait is real and I'm still waiting for Him, y'all.
The Birth of a Nation - starring Nate Parker and co-starring actors Armie Hammer, Jackie Earle Haley, Aja Naomi King, and of course, Gabrielle Union - premieres as a film entry in the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. It is met with a standing ovation and walked away from the competition with the highest distribution deal in Sundance history. Fast forward several months later to August, another kind of controversy saw the light of day as media attention surrounding the film grew in ferocity. The scrutiny widened to reflect onto Parker's 1999 rape case where he had been accused of raping a woman.
As a star of the film, actress Gabrielle Union took the allegations especially personal, having been a survivor of rape herself. Union did what she did best, and sought to use her platform as a means to continue the conversation of sexual violence and the importance of teaching our youth the definition of consent in a finely crafted op-ed for The Los Angeles Times where she shared her thoughts on the ordeal:
"As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly. On that night, 17-odd years ago, did Nate have his date's consent? It's very possible he thought he did. Yet by his own admission he did not have verbal affirmation; and even if she never said 'no,' silence certainly does not equal 'yes.' Although it's often difficult to read and understand body language, the fact that some individuals interpret the absence of a 'no' as a 'yes' is problematic at least, criminal at worst."
It wasn't surprising to me that Union took such a bold approach in giving her stance on the matter. I have known she was a rape survivor for almost as long as I've known her work, admittedly since she was that too-cool-for-school, almond-eyed, cocoa butter-skinned beauty reppin' for the Clovers in the film that rocketed her into mainstream success, Bring It On. The roles seemed to keep coming after that and I watched her proudly as she seemed to carve her own lane in the devil that can sometimes be Hollywood, all while being true to herself.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Michael Kors
Being raped never defined her, killed her spirit, or held her caged as a victim, but it is something that did happen to her 24 years ago, the effect of which can still be felt to this day. She proudly advocates for the survivor and despite the art she believes in and the art she is a part of (The Birth of a Nation), Union can only be her truth.
In the midst of the controversy circling The Birth of a Nation and its upcoming nationwide release (in theaters October 7), the 43-year-old actress took the time to sit with us to tell us how she really feels about social injustices, sexual consent and what led to her feeling like her op-ed was something that needed to be heard.
xoNecole: When you published your op-ed addressing Nate Parker's personal controversy, Colin Kaepernick and several other athletes were being criticized in the media and lost endorsements for speaking out against social injustices. Was there any worry that if your op-ed came across as in defense of Nate Parker that it would hurt your brand?
Gabrielle Union: Everyone on my team was in sync about me doing an op-ed, in fact, they wished it had come out sooner. It took me a long time to craft what I wanted to say and it still be helpful. My first few drafts were not as educational, so I consulted a group of my close friends who are active feminists. I also spoke with several male friends, as well as my husband, and everyone had very different opinions. In talking to numerous people, most of whom are parents, I realized everyone had a different idea about what consent was. So if, as educated adults, we differ on what consent is, imagine what our young people are faced with. Through the op-ed, I wanted to make sure I was very clear that no matter where you stand on the issue of Nate Parker, moving forward, let us all come together and be affirmative what verbal consent truly means. I thought framing the piece like that was more helpful and more constructive.
In terms of going to the Toronto Film Festival and facing the press, there was concern about my brand and the other projects I have coming up. Being Mary Jane is written by a black woman, for black women, and women in general relate to the character so you don't want to alienate anyone. Some people have said, "If you're a feminist, you should boycott the film." And I was like, "But wait, my role in the film and the reason I signed on was to talk about sexual violence." So it feels ass backwards to shirk that responsibility when the controversy swirling around our film is around sexual violence so who better to speak on it than me? And if I take myself out of the conversation because it's uncomfortable and because I'm worried about my brand, then my brand ain't shit if I don't stand up for what I've always stood up for since I became a rape survivor.
While you've been very vocal about your experience with sexual violence, many survivors aren't comfortable disclosing that they've been hurt, especially if they know their attacker. What are some initial steps you'd recommend for victims to acknowledge the situation and begin the healing process?
After I was raped, the police came and they immediately took me to the hospital where I got a rape kit and went to the rape crisis center. The situation happened in an affluent community with an underworked police department and an overstaffed rape crisis center, so I had the most ideal recovery scenario situation possible. I had incredible support, which so many of us don't have. Both of my parents and my sisters were there, my boyfriend and his parents were there. Since I was assaulted at work, I had my hand held through the process of having workman's comp pay for my therapy. When I got to UCLA, their mental health services kicked in. I was never without a safety net. My journey is very rare so if another man or woman's experience doesn't match mine, that's okay.
Everyone's path to healing is different. If the path that I took doesn't feel comfortable for you, that's okay, it just means we need to find another route where you can feel safe and protected. As survivors, we compare our journeys and feel like, if I'm not on Oprah talking about my trauma or volunteering at a rape crisis center, then I'm doing it wrong. Or if I haven't gone to the police, then maybe my story isn't real or valid. Going through the criminal justice system is challenging physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially. That's the path I took but I can't say it was a conscious choice because it happened so fast.
What is your advice to young women who are attempting to repair their self-worth and self-esteem after going through a traumatic experience like rape or sexual assault?
Firstly, you have to forgive yourself for doubting yourself and doubting your memory because so much of it is internalizing it all and feeling guilt and shame for something we have zero control over. Many of the people closest to us will say, "That's what you get for being fast,' or 'What did you do? What were you wearing? What did you say?" Because in a lot of our families, identifying evil that looks like us, that we've invited into our homes, is incredibly difficult, painful and can leave you feeling very powerless. It can be difficult to acknowledge that it happened which can lead to repressed memories which makes the path to recovery so much more difficult.
Forgive yourself for acting like a human and having to experience that excruciating pain. Forgive yourself if your family support isn't the same as someone else's.
I strongly encourage therapy. I've heard from many people, "I can't afford a therapist." There's free group therapy and other free and low-cost options available through your local rape crisis center as well as through hospitals. Money or a lack of resources should not be a hurdle to your healing. Regardless of your race, religion, gender, the help you need to move forward exists.
You have to become your own best advocate to overcome the hurdles that might be in your path. Sometimes the people that are holding us back are the people closest to us. Sometimes your mom, dad, best friend or boyfriend isn't supportive. Maybe they're blaming you or questioning your truth and sometimes the only way to get around that is to distance yourself emotionally because a lot of us may not have the luxury of putting a physical distance between the people that doubt you, but you can develop the skills that allow you to have emotional distance when you can't have physical distance.
After being a part of such a powerful film, do you think your The Birth of a Nation co-stars are more cognizant of white privilege? What types of conversations are you having with your colleagues about using this film to really incite change?
In terms of our cast specifically, the way my scenes were shot I didn't have the same downtime in between filming to have those conversations with my co-stars. I didn't get to really know them while we were shooting but from what I gathered they [Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley] are definitely aware of what white privilege is. Now how aware they are of their own privilege, I don't know because that comes with consistent behavior modification. We will see on their next film if they're still talking about the necessity of addressing oppression and racial inequality.
I have, however, had conversations with people that are on my team, the cast and crew that I work with, friends from high school, etc., and it's been very fascinating to see that so many people are so resistant to the idea of oppression in America. They think you can just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and work hard enough to achieve the American Dream. People will say, "My parents came from another country and didn't speak English," but even so you still get the privilege of whiteness. Most of the people that I know have never truly had to function on a level playing field. They'll say, "We all went to school together and worked our ass off to find jobs," and it's like no, you come from a family that went to the same Ivy League college for generations so you didn't have to have the same grades as a person of color to get in; you were accepted into this university based on being a legacy but no one ever looked at it as a leg up or affirmative action. Then after graduation, you got to work for your father's firm where everyone looks like you.
[During The Birth of a Nation press conference] I was challenging the journalists in the room to evaluate their social circles. What day-to-day work are you doing to recognize your privilege then actively dismantle it? The next step is figuring out what you're willing to do that may not benefit you but will benefit mankind. Most people are savvy enough to say the right things but when it comes to hiring someone that looks like them because it makes them feel more comfortable, that's an example of the big and the little things that go into dismantling the system of oppression that people who benefit from it aren't interested in tearing down. The reason why most people aren't willing to go the extra mile to really have equality is because it won't benefit them. Most people are self-serving, which is human nature so you have to fight back against that.
In order to begin to see change start to occur, we have to be willing to have conversations with people who have different opinions than us. I've already talked to Lena Dunham; I would love to talk to Kate Upton and Amy Schumer. Maybe I can help to explain the oppressive systems that have benefited and allowed them to say these careless, insensitive and offensive things. Those conversations are awkward as fuck and they get heated. Similar to watching people have conversations about consent.
People love living vicariously through the characters on Sex and the City or Girls, however, when women of color are sexually liberated i.e. Being Mary Jane, Scandal or How To Get Away With Murder, these fictitious women are labeled "hoes." What are your thoughts on the double standards of how sexuality is portrayed on TV? And as a dark-skinned woman, are you cognizant that you're helping to redefine the standards of beauty and sexuality in Hollywood?
As a brown skin woman, within my own community, I was never seen as a sex object; I was always the funny friend. If I was in a crowded room with a bunch of women, I was definitely not anyone that anyone else would have described as “sexy." Instead, people would compliment me on my great personality. For about the first 15 years of my career, I wasn't called upon for those types of roles. So I could give you a righteous answer about what I would and wouldn't do but no one ever asked me to be naked or overtly sexual. As I moved out of those teen roles into more mature roles like Bad Boys, I was in a bikini. And in Cradle 2 the Grave, I had a lap dance scene and I was terrified.
When I first read the script, there was no lap dance scene. When I got to work one day my character had evolved into a bank-robbing jewel thief lap dancer. It was the first time in my career where I was cognizant of the fact that there was this assumption that as a 'black woman,' I knew how to dance like a stripper, make my ass clap, and back it up into a camera while understanding my angles. Fatima Robinson had to be hired to choreograph the lap dance.
I was so scared that Halle Berry sent me a note through our mutual friend that basically said, "Nothing is worth your peace of mind and if you're that uncomfortable with the scene, don't do it and don't believe anyone that says your career will be over if you choose not to do it." In my mind I was like, "Of course she can say that. She's Halle Berry."
Eventually, I did the scene and afterwards, it changed how I was received in Hollywood. After I was in Bring It On, there was a certain level of respect people had for me. It was like, 'Yes! You fought against cultural appropriation, you held people responsible and were a leader!' Then after Cradle 2 the Grave, people were pausing the lap dance scene to take screenshots of my body, and as a sexual assault survivor, it was mortifying. I felt so naked, vulnerable and like a target. Strangely enough, after my first divorce, feeling like I failed publicly, no one is ever going to love me and I'm never going to be seen as desirable again, I get Being Mary Jane and she's this very sexually free woman at that time in my life, being 40, it felt very free to feel wanted even if it was for pretend. To play a character that was so desirable, confident and in control of her sexuality and sexual experience was amazing.
Then, you start to see the comments of people calling Mary Jane a “hoe" and a “home-wrecker," Olivia Pope [Kerry Washington] and Annalise Keating [Viola Davis] are hoes because on our television shows we're in control of our own sexual narrative? Damn, if that's the parameters then there are a lot of men and women that are hoes.
I choose to define sexuality differently and you have to figure out what you're comfortable with. Not everyone is comfortable with multiple partners or casual sex and that's okay; it doesn't make you a saint or me a sinner. If other people try to tell you what's acceptable when its comes to your sexuality, you have to call bullshit; last I checked, the only person my vagina was attached to was me, so anyone else's opinions about that are unnecessary, uninvited and unwarranted. For most of us, that's hard. I'm not Mary Jane but when I see the horrible things people say about the character, I feel crucified. In terms of sexuality in Hollywood, you have to do what you're comfortable with.
Your confidence and self-assuredness at 43 is admirable. How has your opinion of yourself evolved from when you were in your 20s? Did you have to work on finding yourself or did you always have a pretty good idea of who you were?
When I was a senior at UCLA, I had just started modeling but no one was checking for me when it came to my body or my face. I have great parents, I have a great support system, I had a job, I'm educated but, at that time, I wanted nothing more than to be cast in the 2Pac “California Love" music video. I stood in line with girls I knew from USC, UCLA, Long Beach State--educated, Christian girls, we all waited in line, for our chance to dance in front of 2Pac and 25 of his closest friends because there was something about being chosen that was so intoxicating that we objectified ourselves and we were okay with it.
I always come back to that experience because my self-esteem was so low that all I wanted was to be chosen. [The thought was] if that person chooses me then I must be worthwhile.
For so many of us, we chase that and it isn't necessarily just girls that weren't raised with a father--my dad was there every day. Woke up, he was there, went to sleep, he was there. He told me positive affirmations but my dad never said I was pretty. 'That's a great crossover', 'Nice jump shot', 'You're so smart,' but I was never validated for my looks. My parents thought that was the best route because you don't validate young black girls for their looks; you validate them for their achievements. Cut to me standing in a three-hour line waiting for my chance to objectify myself hoping to be chosen by 2Pac. And I see that played out every day. That longing for someone to validate you is exemplified all the time in reality TV, through social media, in schools and even in corporate America.
What advice would you share with young women in their 20s, especially those aspiring actresses and artists who are trying to find themselves while trying to make it in the entertainment industry?
I would tell my 20-year-old self, "You were fly, dope and amazing from birth. From the second you took your first breath you were worthwhile and valid and you have to find other ways to feel good about yourself that have nothing to do with being chosen by a man."
When people say, 'You're so lucky Dwyane Wade chose you,' I'm like, 'No, I chose myself.' Once I chose myself and realized I was my best asset, not who chooses me, that freed me up to love myself in a way that allowed me to love other people better, which allowed our love to finally come in after years of back and forth and mental chess matches.
There are people that have asked and assume that my greatest accomplishment is getting married and I'm like, "No, my wedding is not an accomplishment. The fact that I made it down the aisle with Dwyane Wade isn't an accomplishment. Graduating from UCLA is an accomplishment, being a sexual assault survivor is an accomplishment, being a part of The National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women (NAC) appointed by President Obama-- that's an accomplishment" Getting this man down the aisle isn't an accomplishment. Just being chosen isn't an accomplishment.
For those people who don't want to support Nate Parker, who don't want to see “another slave movie" or for other races that think this is just a “black film," why are you so passionate about people seeing The Birth of a Nation? What's so important about the film that people have to see it?
My mother took me aside in high school to teach me the story of Nat Turner because she saw that I had completely assimilated into white culture. When she was around, she would hear adversity come up and she saw that I would never speak up, I was always the one that didn't want to draw too much attention to myself, I just wanted to fit in. So when I was 14, she took me to the library so I could research Nat Turner and I learned that what he did was a different type of resistance than Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr.
My mom saw that I wasn't being a leader; I was being complacent so understanding black liberation and black resistance in the face of adversity and the face of oppression was so desperately needed at that time in my life. To stand up and lead, makes you a target and I thought that being black was big enough target so I didn't want anyone to notice me but my mother said, "That's not the woman I'm raising. I didn't raise you to be silent."
Nat Turner was a tangible American hero that I could look up to that dared to fight back and push back. There are a lot of us that need to see it's okay to stand up and do what's right no matter the cost. Our country is built on resistance but we can't just acknowledge the resistance from British rule; we have to also acknowledge the slaves' resistance of oppression.
If you've ever been a position where you didn't feel strong enough to fight back and do the right thing, this film is for you. If you have an issue that you stand behind that you feel like doesn't get enough coverage or resources and you want to stand up and feel inspired to fight for whatever cause you believe in, this film is for you. And if you feel like there have been too many slavery movies…there have been too many slavery movies where we're not our own saviors. Instead, we're waiting for the same white people who oppressed us to save us.
This is not 'another slave movie.' This film is about black liberation, our humanity, our hope and our love and I haven't seen these topics portrayed in a film to this degree. There's never been a film like The Birth of a Nation.
But I understand those who may have an issue with Nate's past and if you don't like the way Nate is handling the present, I absolutely understand if you chose to sit the film out. I respect it because I would be a hypocrite if I said I hadn't chosen not to see films that made me uncomfortable for one reason or another, but my hope for those that choose not to see the film is that you're leading the movement from another direction and the conversation doesn't die because you decide to sit the film out.
I hope that if you choose not to see the film, you're still having conversations about black liberation, black resistance, racial inequality. This is still a part of our reality and we need to be a part of the solution and the healing so we stop hearing, "That happened to me too"' I just don't want anyone else to tell me, "Me too." I'm going to continue to live at that intersection because my womanness and my blackness are intrinsically linked. I hope that the film will inspire you to take the spirit of action, resistance and personal liberation and apply it to your own lives.
Originally published January 2016.
Featured image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Michael Kors
Meagan Good is a fighter. No, not the type that's pulling weaves and throwing drinks on reality TV, she's been fighting for her career. It's far from easy to transition from being a child star to a well-respected actress, and equally as hard to make a shift from a sex symbol to a leading lady. While many young women are trying to set thirst traps on the 'gram, Meagan has naturally mastered the art of seduction. Ask any guy before social media and they'll tell you that she was their “Woman Crush Everyday". Meagan may exude sex, but don't forget, she's also a Christian and married to a preacher! Ironically, she connected with her husband, DeVon Franklin, on set of Jumping the Broom--a film in which he produced as a former executive at Sony Pictures.
In her two decades of acting, the 34-year-old has played in many supporting ensemble roles including Linda Jackson in Anchorman 2, Mya in Think Like A Man (1 & 2) and Kali in Californication. It's now time for her to play the lead. As the former star of the NBC drama Deception, and the TV adaptation of Minority Report on FOX, it's safe to say that Meagan is now within an elite group of actresses that have appeared on network TV including Kerry Washington (Scandal), Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow), Gabrielle Union (Being Mary Jane), Taraji P. Henson (Empire), and Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish) who are at the helm of their own series. Meagan's presence was felt at the Emmys when Viola Davis shouted her out while winning the award for Best Lead Actress In A Drama.
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For aspiring actresses looking at Meagan's career for inspiration, note that she has and continues to choose her acting roles by faith. While it may be tempting to take any and every role that comes across her path, Meagan shares that she's passed on various opportunities that weren't in line with what she's prayed for. This discernment has also helped her to cut off toxic relationships.
She speaks with xoNecole on how her growth as a woman and as an actress, as well as giving insight on what she and her sister are doing to make a lasting impact on students who want to pursue careers in the arts.
xoNecole: In a previous interview you said, “I think most of the damage that happens, especially as adults, comes from relationships that we should've never had or been in, in the first place." Earlier in your career, how did you discern who wanted to be your friend or in a relationship with you for the wrong reasons?
Meagan Good: Pray about every relationship that you allow into your life and you'll receive discernment. The truth is if what we want to do and what we're supposed to do are conflicting, that feeling is what causes confusion. But there's no confusion when you know deep down inside what's the right thing to do; it's just usually not what you want to do.
I went through that a lot in my twenties. There were so many friendships that I wanted so badly. I loved these people so much but the things they would do to me, other people or to themselves, I would make excuses for. I'm really good at assessing why people do what they do, but what I've learned later in life is regardless of the "why" they're still doing those things.
You have to believe and release someone when they show you who they are. It doesn't mean you can't love them. Doesn't mean you can't be there for them, but sometimes it has to be from a distance to protect your own spirit. Look at people's actions and really pray about it, and that's how you'll be able to discern their intentions. When you feel confused, just know it's not what you want to do or it's probably not what you're supposed to do.
With the challenges women of color face with getting leading roles in Hollywood, what validation did you feel when Viola Davis mentioned your name in her Emmy speech?
I cried. It meant so much to me to be acknowledged by someone like Viola, whom I have so much respect for. We all face challenges in this business, especially as Black women. It's been a really long crawl for me to transition from being a child actress to an adult actress, in addition to being in that "sex kitten" role in my early 20s and fighting to be taken more seriously. It's been a really long journey and to hear her say my name really blessed me. To listen to her journey and to know what she's gone through to be acknowledged for the great actress that she is…it's all of our struggles to get out of the box that people always try to put us in.
It's an incredible time for women and minorities in TV and film. There's been a massive shift that we've all been patiently waiting for. I'm a big believer in not complaining about the things that are wrong. Instead, I place my energy into being on the front line of change, having a positive attitude and fighting to see things shift. To be in Hollywood right now and have these opportunities as the shift is coming is incredible.
I loved your NBC show Deception. I was so sad that it only got one season, but it seemed to have been pitted against Scandal. Now we have so many more options of women of color on TV. You mentioned in another interview that you turned down another action role prior to landing Minority Report. How have you learned to wait for the right role instead of jumping at every opportunity?
I pray and read my Bible every single day, I stay close to God because He's what matters the most--everything else is secondary. My career can never give me what God can give me. When Deception initially came to me, I was afraid to do TV because it's a huge time commitment and you'll potentially be playing the same character for several years. And for at least six months of the year you're away from your family in a different state or even a different country.
I had all of these stipulations about what the situation had to be in order for me to do television. When the opportunity for me to star in Deception presented itself, it was everything I said it had to be, so I knew it was God. When it ended, I was very thankful because it created so many other opportunities for me in the process. Deception opened the door for Minority Report as well as my role in Anchor Man 2: The Legend Continues. God wanted me to have those different roles to be able to build a platform where I could be more affective as a Christian.
Deception allowed people to see me in a really different light. At the time I had just gotten married and being away from my family I had a lot of time to grow personally and professionally. So I wasn't disappointed when the show got canceled because I knew God had something else lined up. Similarly with Minority Report, I asked God for certain things within the role and it was everything I said it needed to be. It's a testament to not settling. I trust God so much that even if my decisions don't make sense to other people, I know that God knows what He's doing.
You and your sister, La'Miya established a foundation, For The Greater Good where you developed an arts education curriculum for the Compton Unified School Districts. How do you relate to the kids and what made you and your sister want to go above and beyond a traditional mentorship program?
You can definitely make a difference sharing your story through speaking engagements, but you don't really get to follow up and be a consistent part of their lives. My sister and I developed a curriculum to figure out how we could impact this generation in a consistent way. Growing up in the school systems, you're made to think something is wrong with you because your brain is creative. As a kid, I wasn't super book smart but I had a lot of wisdom. Our curriculum is geared towards the kids that learn creatively. They need to have history, math, science, etc., but it's infused with art and music. It definitely helps keep these students out of trouble and it includes mentorship at the same time.
We wanted to do something that had a lasting affect. We want to expand the reach of the program because this generation has a lot of negative influences. Young ladies are being encouraged to sleep around, do drugs and compromise their integrity. The images that are out there of what you need to do to get guys attention and what you need to do to be valuable are going to lead them in a direction that's destructive. So, we want to do what we can to give students another option.
Featured image by Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com