In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
Vashtie Kola is more than just the badass who wore a durag to match her wedding dress at her City Hall-style wedding. She is a cultural icon and one of the most well-respected tastemakers in the industry. Vashtie has been shaking up the New York City nightlife scene for over a decade as a DJ, music video director, designer and creative consultant. Her most iconic music video directions and creative consulting clients include Solange, Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar and Jadakiss - talk about receipts! However, with the welcoming of her new baby, self-care is definitely on the top of her list while balancing motherhood, work and marriage.
Since COVID-19, her self-care routine has definitely rocked, but when you add a baby into the mix, it's certainly something that needs to be prioritized. Vashtie credits the pandemic to her being able to spend time with herself. "I cleared up my years of hyperpigmentation and read six books in the past few months and I'm not a reader!" she joked to xoNecole.
Courtesy of Vashtie Kola
Throughout it all, Vashtie even had time to secure the bag with a brand ambassadorship Dallas-based jewelry brand, Piercing Pagoda alongside Kat Graham and Blair Imani for the #BeMoreYou campaign. "#BeMoreYou speaks to being your most authentic self. It's about being true in your self-expression, but also your needs. Self-care is about healthily satisfying one's needs. They are inextricably connected," the Vashtie.com founder expressed. "If my teenage self knew that I'd be working with Piercing Pagoda one day, I'm sure she never would have believed it. It's fascinating and such an honor."
For this installment of "Finding Balance", xoNecole caught up with creative director, Violette New York designer and DJ Vashtie Kola about life with her new baby, how her day-to-day differs with the pandemic and relying on fellow creatives for more inspiration.
xoNecole: Let's talk about 2020 and how it has been such a pivotal year for you: You had a baby and got married. Congratulations! How did you make space for those things you wanted in your personal life over the last four years?
Vashtie Kola: I spent a lot of time on inner work. I dedicated the last six years in therapy and meditation. I also read a lot of self-help type books and learned a lot about myself. I didn't want to continue leaning on my childhood traumas as an excuse for my adulthood issues. As a believer in Law of Attraction, I didn't want to live in a broken state and attract a broken partner. I knew that the only way to having a healthy and whole partner was if that's who I was.
"As a believer in Law of Attraction, I didn't want to live in a broken state and attract a broken partner. I knew that the only way to having a healthy and whole partner was if that's who I was."
Photo Credit: Camille Thompson/@killahcamz
Courtesy of Vashtie Kola
Looking back on what your life was like in 2016, you were around 35. Most women go through a huge shift during this time. What was your vision for 2020 Vashtie back then? Was motherhood and marriage something you were working towards and saw for yourself?
My shift was maybe a bit backwards compared to the women I know. Around 2014, I had just gotten out of an eight-year relationship and found myself single for the first time since I was 15. I spent a lot of that time focused on my career without having to balance it with a partner, which helped catapult my career. It was actually a quite powerful and positive time for me, having spent the years prior focused mainly on my partnerships and for the first time I was able to focus on me. As a monogamist, long-term [and] life-long commitment was always important to me, but marriage wasn't a need of mine. I had considered it, but it wasn't until I started a relationship with my husband that I really desired it. Having children, however, was always in my mind and heart. I always knew I wanted to be a mother and am thankful that I was able to.
Some people fear that they will lose themselves in a relationship or marriage, how have you been able to find balance within that role and tend to your partners needs as well as your needs while also still rocking it in your career?
Self-care is crucial for yourself and your relationships. It's like the airplane safety announcement as you take off on a plane where they say if your airmask drops that you have to put yours on before putting it on a child. It used to confuse me why you wouldn't put the airmask on the child first, and then it clicked. How can you help anyone if you're not at a healthy place to help yourself? You have to meet your own emotional needs first.
In the last few years of my personal journey, I've also learned that you're not responsible for other people's feelings and they are not responsible for yours, meaning you can't "make" others happy and it's no one's role to "make" you happy. You are the sole person responsible for your feelings and maintaining your balance is critical for your life and relationships. Having a partner that understands that is also helpful, otherwise you can get caught up in trying to make them happy while trying to make yourself happy which doesn't bode well for the long-term.
Of course, tending to your relationships is important and while putting your emotional needs first is crucial - it's key to know when to prioritize. My husband and I have been doing pretty well with it so far, especially with a newborn. Some days when I can see that he really needs a break and I'm tired also, I take some duties off his plate so he can relax - and vice versa. It's truly a balancing act!
"As a monogamist, long-term [and] life-long commitment was always important to me, but marriage wasn't a need of mine. I had considered it, but it wasn't until I started a relationship with my husband that I really desired it."
Photo Credit: Edwin Ortiz/@edwinortizjr
Courtesy of Vashtie Kola
What was your perspective of marriage and motherhood before you actually became a mom and wife, and has it changed?
My perspective of marriage was that the ones that "seemed" - I say that in quotations because you never truly know - successful always managed to keep an element of romance and mystery. Now in marriage, we do our best with a newborn to keep it romantic and fun. I also think it's important not to get lost in the title of "wife" or "husband" because I think there are too many predetermined expectations that arise when using those terms. I like the idea of continuing to think of my husband as my best friend first. As far as my perspective of motherhood, I always knew it would be full of challenges, but in the back of my mind I always had this silly idea that it would be easier for me - not the case (laughs). I watched tons of YouTube videos, read books and researched blogs but nothing can prepare you for what your child needs.
At what point in your life did you understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in both your personal and professional life?
In 2016, I had a bit of a breakdown. I was working around the clock; photoshoots and meetings by day and DJing late nights. From the outside, I'm sure I looked [like I was] on top of the word but I was falling apart emotionally. That's when I learned Transcendental Meditation and went into Core Energetics therapy. I realized that not every job or opportunity is worth it if your sense of self is unraveling. It's so important to have the balance.
What is a typical day in your life? If no day is quite the same, give me a rundown of a typical workweek and what that might consist of.
Well, it was much different pre-COVID. A typical day is spent with my baby, having a photoshoot and doing work on my computer [or] iPhone. If I'm not researching designs or creative concepting a project, I'm taking photos or prepping social media content for brands. Sometimes I'm DJing a set from home or doing an Instagram live interview.
How has your self-care routine adjusted since the birth of your baby?
(Laughs) Self-care with a newborn is as basic as a shower, if I can get to it. Or eating a meal with two hands as opposed to shoveling food in my mouth with one hand and the baby in the other.
When you have a busy week, what’s the most hectic part of it?
Honestly, I think it's my interpretation. I've learned that our words and thoughts play a major role in how we experience things. By changing the phrase of "I've had a hard week" to "I've had a challenging week" changes the feeling from being powerless to being empowered. Also, the re-telling of the "hardships" of the week or complaining about it makes it worse, as if you relive it when you tell it or talk about it. I'm learning now to just chalk it up to an experience and move forward.
"I've learned that our words and thoughts play a major role in how we experience things. By changing the phrase of 'I've had a hard week' to 'I've had a challenging week' changes the feeling from being powerless to being empowered."
Courtesy of Vashtie Kola
Do you practice any types of self-care? What does that look like for you?
Morning meditation, listening to inspirational speakers, reading books that improve self. I'm also working on listening to my emotions and learning to decipher what they are versus pacifying myself with things (shopping, eating, distractions, etc).
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
Asking fellow creative friends from my trusted circle helps. I like it when people can talk to me in a straightforward manner, but also people who understand the dilemma and have been there. My husband and friends are a really great source, but also sometimes I vent on Instagram stories and people reply with understanding words or helpful advice.
"I also think it's important not to get lost in the title of 'wife' or 'husband' because I think there are too many predetermined expectations that arise when using those terms. I like the idea of continuing to think of my husband as my best friend first."
Courtesy of Vashtie Kola
Honestly, what does success and happiness mean to you?
It's doing the work I love, being present for the people in my life, taking time for myself and bringing the best me I can be for me but also for my family and friends.
For more Vashtie Kola, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Vashtie Kola