Courtesy of Vashtie Kola

Vashtie Kola Talks Motherhood, Therapy & Importance Of Attracting A Whole Partner

"I've learned that our words and thoughts play a major role in how we experience things."

Finding Balance

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

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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