What sets Viola Davis apart from her peers in Hollywood are a few things. First, obviously the color of her skin. Then, the mastery of her craft, and last but not least, her willingness to be transparent and vulnerable when bringing topics to the forefront that aren't the easiest to confront. She sat with InStyle Magazine to share her experiences during an uncertain time, along with dropping gems about motherhood and her career:
"I will say that I think my greatest source of strength is my authenticity. If I try to channel some other being, I get lost. That's when my anxiety level goes up. Growing up in Central Falls [R.I.] as the only kinky-haired chocolate-brown girl, I always was trying to channel the girls who had the Farrah Fawcett look. It had disastrous results. So the only thing I can do is channel my authenticity."
One of the topics that Viola is letting us in on that seems to be echoed by so many other Black women is that she loves to use her talent but she doesn't like working so damn hard! There just seems to be something about the experience of being forced to slow down that is requiring all people, but especially Black women to dig deep within and pull out what they find purposeful and pleasurable. That's because we are told from a very young age we have to work twice as hard just to get one step ahead. Breaking this paradigm is very hard work to do as it requires someone to confront the fact that the way they built their life up to a certain point no longer serves them and it is time for major reconstruction. Viola shared her struggles:
"I didn't do well at first. I know a lot of people felt great with it. I did feel great, in terms of I don't like working so much. Nowadays, being a woman is juggling motherhood, being a wife, cooking, and then being the CEO and knowing how to optimize your business. I don't like working like that. It drives me completely insane. So the time off was wonderful, but I'm an empath. I don't know how to channel the pain and suffering that other people are going through and say, 'But I feel great!' It was very difficult for me to process what was happening."
It sounds like Viola is just like many of us, ready to tap into a different type of energy where tasks that we are happy to tend to like ones that come with motherhood and/or being a spouse, are counted as being just as productive as being a CEO. Where emotional labor is just as taxable as their main source of income. This requires having the audacity to tap out of situations that do not serve us personally.
Keep scrolling for a few celebrities that are prioritizing their peace, preservation, and sanity over their careers.
The artists and mogul expressed that she is giving herself permission to focus on her joy by slowing down the production of her music and focusing more on herself along with family life. In a past interview with Elle, she revealed:
"The more I mature, the more I understand my value. I realized I had to take control of my work and my legacy because I wanted to be able to speak directly to my fans in an honest way. I wanted my words and my art to come directly from me. There were things in my career that I did because I didn't understand that I could say no. We all have more power than we realize."
Recently, Eve announced that she is leaving her co-star position on The Talk to focus on expanding her family. We love to see it!
Rihanna is being Rihanna...got us out here waiting forever for an album but it's perfectly fine to take a break. We just hope she doesn't keep us waiting too long. Although she slayed the runway with her Savage X Fenty Vol. 2 show this year and the release of her new brand Fenty Skin, Rihanna has been vocal in the past about her desire for "balance". In a tweet, she wrote:
"To all my friends/family/coworkers who I have yet to get back to in the past months...please forgive me. This year has been quite an overwhelming one, and I'm working on that ish called Balance. brb."
Featured image by DFree / Shutterstock.com
- We're Stealing These Celebrity Self-Care Tips & You Should Too ... ›
- Viola Davis Opens Up About Anxiety And Not Feeling Pretty Enough ... ›
New Jersey native creating a life that she loves while living in gratitude. Lifestyle and wellness creative, fur mom, full-time lover of laughter. She is out for revenge against the darkness by being the light ,taking her own advice, traveling the world, and spreading love one "yasss queen" at a time. Keep up with her via IG @Iamzaniah
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
How A Solo Trip To Antigua Helped Me Heal From My Breakup
Travel can hold a plethora of purposes, such as business, relaxation, and celebration, so when I booked a solo trip to Antigua earlier this year, I never imagined that my attempt to escape the NYC cold would end up being a journey of healing and finding myself again.
As someone who visited seven countries and 11 cities last year, travel has always been such an important aspect of who I am. And while I enjoy weekend trips with my girls or being laid up on a baecation, solo trips are more my speed. After taking my first solo trip seven years ago, I’ve realized how freeing it can be to explore a new city or country on my own and how much more I learn about myself during these adventures.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of money or the ability to travel the world, so as an adult, I enjoy the freedom and resources to just book a flight and go. I never thought this would be something that would change or I’d have to sacrifice until I did.
A Break From Solo Travel
If you told me a couple of years ago that I would go two whole years without a real solo trip, I would've laughed. Solo travel was a form of self-care, a way that I could reset and rejuvenate. It was the one thing I felt I had control over, the one thing I had to myself. But then I started dating and became serious with someone who expressed discomfort with the idea of me taking solo trips. I remember a few months into dating, I was headed to Aruba on a much-needed solo trip, and he expressed how uncomfortable he was with this.
A part of it seemed to stem from genuine concern, which most of us solo travelers are used to. But I assured him that I was probably less safe living in the Bronx every day than I was going to Aruba. The other side of it seemed to be from a space of thinking that if I was with someone, I should be traveling with my partner and shouldn't need to take solo trips. At first, I was annoyed and offended. Anyone who is dating me, THEE Queen of Travel, will have to be okay with my travel adventures. I thought it was unreasonable and that he just did not get it.
But as our relationship became more serious and more in-depth conversations arose related to his feelings about this, I realized I would have to make a sacrifice for the relationship.
His comments about how the girlfriends of his boys never traveled alone and only traveled with their men made me question if maybe I did need to reconsider this aspect of my life as I entered a relationship. Was I being selfish and not understanding his feelings? Should I be less focused on solo trips and more focused on building our future and making memories together?
I compromised my love for spontaneous solo trips for the comfort of my partner and for the promise that those solo trips would be replaced by baecations, which I was all for. I wasn't happy about it, but I made the decision that I thought would work.
But not all instances of sacrifice have happy endings.
Reclaiming My Time
Fast forward two years, and 0 solo trips later, my relationship is ending. There's no sob story or terrible incident, I just truly realized that I was no longer fully happy, and this was not the relationship that I could see myself in 5-10 years down the line. While traveling was not the reason for the split, it definitely played some part in my decision. Throughout our time together, I skipped solo trips altogether and filled my time with girls' trips, two baecations, and visiting friends in other cities.
I thought that my time would be filled with more couple trips and vacations together that would keep me too busy to think about solo travel, but that wasn't the reality. And then there were always little comments about how much I traveled, especially if it wasn't with him, which left me feeling defensive or guilty just for taking a girls' trip with my best friends.
In the grand scheme of things, I need a partner who is 100% comfortable and secure with me traveling with friends or alone, even if I choose not to.
So here I am, single again. But I knew exactly what I needed. I had a week off of work in February and would need to leave cold NYC behind, so I did what I do best and booked a flight to Antigua, a destination I have been eyeing forever. I was excited to finally be alone with myself, on a beautiful island, with a mojito in hand and nothing to worry about.
I opted for The Royalton Antigua, an all-inclusive, as opposed to my usual Airbnb, because I truly wanted to unwind and not have to do much thinking and planning. This would give me the freedom to really enjoy my vacation on my own schedule and timing and have everything I needed at my fingertips.
I literally had butterflies while booking my accommodations. That is how much I needed this.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
From the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a sense of comfort that I had not felt in so long. Every single day that I spent at that resort, soaking up the sun, and all that Antigua has to offer, I began to feel lighter. Antigua is such a beautiful island and the people were so friendly and welcoming, so I immediately felt at peace.
Though my breakup was my choice and the right choice, I was still carrying around some sadness and heartache. But as the days went by, I spent time sitting on my balcony, journaling and reflecting on my life over the last two years, as well as what I would like it to look like in the next two.
I allowed myself to cry, to breathe, to forgive myself, and to heal. I woke up when I felt like it, ate when and where I wanted, and allowed myself the comfort of just being free.
I knew that I needed this trip, but the type of spiritual and emotional relief that I experienced was unexpected.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
I realized that giving up solo trips seemed like a small thing to me at that time, but in reality, I was giving up a part of my independence and a part of my own needs. And in the two years I spent without solo trips, nothing else was put into my life to replace that feeling. And so a part of me, the fun and carefree girl, disappeared along with it. During my trip, I spent time on the beach just enjoying the scenery and my solitude.
I did morning workouts on vacation, which is not my thing, but getting a sweat in while overlooking the ocean hits different than any gym. At the pool bars, the staff at the Royalton treated me so kindly and always made sure ya girl always had everything she needed. One thing about being beautiful on vacation, you will be taken care of. I even ventured off the resort to see more of the island and immerse myself in Antiguan culture.
And in the midst of this solo trip, I made friends with three Black women who were celebrating a birthday, and I ended up hanging out with them and partying into the night. It made me realize all the reasons that I love solo travel. The ability to be at peace and enjoy reflective time with myself, but also the ability to make friends and have a damn good time. Not to mention, while partying, I met a fine, tall, handsome man from the U.S. who was also vacationing, but that’s a story for another time...
The point here is that by the time I was headed to the airport five days later, I felt so overwhelmed with emotion. Not because I was sad, or even happy for that matter, but because for the first time in a long time, I felt like me.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
There's a quote that I've always loved that says, "Travel not to find yourself, but to remember who you've been all along." There are so many reasons why I feel that travel is not only an important part of life but a necessary one, and discovering more about who you are as a person is one of those reasons.
I didn't "find" myself on that trip, I already knew who I was. Rather, I awakened a part of me that I had allowed to be dormant for far too long.
Antigua reminded me of how much I love stepping off the plane in a new place and knowing that when I step foot back into the airport again to go home, I won't be the same person I was in that moment. I don't have any regrets about the decision I made, but I know that going forward, I'll be more intentional about compromising parts of me that I love so much.
I hope this inspires someone to reawaken that side of you that you've pushed to the back burner and let fizzle because that version of you cannot wait to shine again.
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Featured image courtesy of Robin D. Thomas