Violinist Ezinma Shares How She Found Purpose In Music
At face value, one might not think the classical composer Bach and the rapper Future could occupy the same space. However, classically trained violinist Meredith Ezinma Ramsay (also known as just Ezinma or “Classical Bae”) proved that it's a magical combination when she responded to the viral #MaskOffChallenge on Instagram in 2017 with a violin rendition of the rapper’s hit song.
“I was practicing a piece written by Bach,” the violinist tells XoNecole. “I just sort of had this idea: ‘What if I just sort of looped it?’” By looping, or continuously repeating, the classical piece with the “Mask Off” melody, Ezinma said that for the first time she created something that felt true to herself. She posted the video of her performing her classical rendition to Instagram “on a whim,” and not long after, the video took on a life of its own.
“[The video] just went viral, like crazy viral. I woke up the next day to 22,000 followers. I had two hundred the day before,” Ezinma recounts.
For the violinist, her interest in the violin began at just the age of four years old. “At the school I went to, they had a very small violin program. And just because I saw these kids with violins, I begged my parents if I could play,” she says. It took a bit of convincing for her parents to finally rent her a tiny violin, but once they gave in, Ezinma says that she was a natural at playing the instrument.
Her love for violins led Ezinma all the way to New York after she finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska where she studied both science and the violin. “[New York is] such a fertile ground as a creative person, especially as a musician, because there are so many genres everywhere,” she says. “You walk down the street, you hear jazz, or you see a hip hop club or a classical concert. So I was really in heaven.”
Not long after moving to New York, she received a phone call that changed her life while at the gym. “I was living in Harlem at the time and I get this call from this contractor in New York City. And she was like: ‘Hey, can you be at Central Park in 30 minutes? There’s a gig with Stevie Wonder. We're going to do a quick soundcheck. We need a violinist,’ for whatever reason, so-and-so fell through.” Ezinma recalls.
“There was no sheet music. There was hardly [any] rehearsal. It was just really being up there and jamming," she says. "And it was, I think for me, such a pivotal moment because it was super early on in my career. And when you show up for yourself and you see just how capable you are, it kind of empowers [you.]”
The experience of playing with the legendary musical genius who Ezinma says is her “favorite artist of all time,” reminded her of the old industry adage: “when you get the call, you better be ready.”
Another lesson Ezinma learned came after she toured with Queen Bey for years. Ezinma performed with Beyoncé and Jay-Z during the On The Run 2 tour, as well as Beyoncé’s iconic Coachella performance, Beychella, which became the Netflix documentary Homecoming. Still, Ezinma said in a 2020 interview that there was a part of her that felt unfulfilled, even after having achieved such an illustrious milestone in her career. “For me, purpose is very closely aligned with service,” she tells me after I ask her if she still feels that way now that more time has passed. “Success is great and awesome and it's wonderful, right? But, for me personally, just sort of doing things without getting to connect, especially with kids, it feels like I'm missing out on a really important part of the puzzle.”
Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, Ezinma was 13 years old and had been playing violin for nearly 10 years before she'd ever met another Black string musician. Now, she’s making it her mission to help more kids of color have access to string instruments and lessons.Recently, Ezinma founded the non-profit Strings by Heart which aims to bring classical music to underprivileged communities through education. “There's this really sobering statistic…that less than 4% of people in orchestras are Black or brown,” Ezinma says. “And when I saw that number – and also just based on my experience – it was like, gosh, how do we improve this?”
While going on a tour of schools in Harlem and the Bronx, she says that so many of the kids she met were natural when given an instrument. It’s reminiscent of her own early connection with the violin when she recalls how she doesn’t think she would’ve ever played the instrument if she had never seen those kids at her school playing the violin. “So much of what we do is because of what we're exposed to,” says Ezinma. “It's not because of a lack of talent among Black and brown people. It's really about a lack of opportunity.”
As for her own future, Ezinma hopes to broaden her musical talents onto the big screen. “I did my first project as a film composer maybe six years ago,” she tells me. “And I really, really loved it!” At the beginning of the pandemic Ezinma says that she decided to go back to school at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts to pursue a degree in film scoring. “I live and breathe music and that could either be on the violin, that can be on stage, that can be teaching, that can be film scoring. I really see it all as one.”
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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So, now that we’re already a few weeks into the new year (what is time…what is time, y’all?), tell me something: how are your resolutions going? If you’re already feeling a bit defeated because a few things have not gone as planned, go a little easy on yourself. Research continues to reveal that 80 percent of resolutions fail, in part because they are somewhat unrealistic to begin with.
Not so much when it comes to the goal; more like it’s rooted in the belief that something supernatural happens on January 1 when that couldn’t be further from the truth. In other words, today is just as good as any to resolve that you’re going to try something new, break a habit, or reach a particular goal.
Today is also a great time to resolve that you’re going to wake up each and every day and be proactive about taking care of your vaginal and vulvar health. Keeping all of this in mind, since resolution means “a formal expression of opinion or intention made,” how about you nix the “New Year’s” part and put “today,” every day, in front of the word instead? It’ll take the pressure off of you, and when it comes to this particular piece, your vagina (and vulva) will be oh-so grateful for the consistent follow-through of your intentions.
Starting with these 10 suggestions…
1. You Will Take a Probiotic
Something that your vagina is full of is bacteria — some good and some not-so-good. When your vagina is healthy (for the most part, this means that when your pH balance is where it needs to be), you don’t even notice that there is a slight “war” going on to keep the bad bacteria from outweighing the good. However, when bad bacteria is more present, it can lead to infections like bacterial vaginosis.
A probiotic can help to serve you super well as far as preventing bad bacteria from getting out of line is concerned. That’s because it’s loaded with billions of good bacteria per serving. You can take it in the form of a supplement, kefir (which is basically yogurt 2.0), or other fermented foods, including pickles, cheese, kombucha, and the Japanese seasoning miso. I can always tell when I do take a probiotic and when I don’t, not just when it comes to my vaginal health but my gut health overall. Definitely a must-have when it comes to your overall health and well-being.
2. You Will Eat More Vitamin C-Enriched Foods
Speaking of bacterial vaginosis, if a chronic case is something that you’re trying to conquer once and for all this year, get more vitamin C into your system. The reason why it’s so effective is it’s a type of nutrient that makes your vagina “too acidic” for bad bacteria to thrive in. And since vitamin C is also great at helping to stabilize your blood pressure, keeping chronic diseases at bay (in part by boosting your immune system), and helping your body to produce more collagen (which can help you to look younger, add hydration to your system and reduce joint discomfort) — you can never go wrong by consuming foods that are high in this particular nutrient. Some of them include citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi, and kale.
3. You Will Consume Less Dairy and Sugar
Sometimes ice cream really pisses me off. Not because it isn’t delicious; it’s because it contains two things that my vagina isn’t the biggest fan of: dairy and sugar. Dairy isn’t the best thing for vaginas because it contains properties that can actually prevent your mucosal lining from forming; when that happens, your vagina can become more vulnerable to infections. Plus, dairy can contain hormones in it that aren’t the best for your vaginal health either. And sugar? If you’re someone who has chronic yeast infections and you can’t seem to figure out why — if sugar is a consistent part of your diet, that’s more than likely a main culprit.
Sugar feeds off of yeast, and so, in order to fully heal from a yeast infection, your diet has to shift away from lots of sugar intake too. Plus, if you happen to be diabetic (or have high blood sugar quite a bit), that can restrict the blood flow to your genital region, which can result in a vaginal dryness. So…no ice cream? For now, let’s go with less of it.
4. You Will Purchase More Underwear
Last year, I penned an article for the platform entitled, “10 Women Told Me Why They Stopped Wearing Panties (And They Don't Regret It)." For me personally, sleeping naked is more than enough. If that is your testimony too, I do recommend that you know what kind of panties are best for your body (check out “These Are The Kinds Of Panties Your Vagina Actually Prefers”) and that you “swap them out” on a fairly consistent basis (meaning every six months or so). The cleaner your panties are, the less you will have to worry about vaginal irritation — on any level.
5. You Will Keep Your Undies Out of the Washing Machine
If you’re someone who seems to have an irritated vulva (and vaginal opening), no matter what you do, a hack that I’ve been shifting into that you may want to try is washing all of your panties by hand instead of relying on the washing machine. The method behind the madness is washing machines contain their fair share of bacteria and fecal matter (which is why you should run white vinegar through a hot water cycle once a month), which can stay on your clothes and get onto you. And since your vulva is super sensitive, you want to make sure to keep it as clean as possible. One way to do that is to wash your undies by hand. It will take a bit more time; however, since it’s gentler on your fabrics and better for your skin, it’s time well spent.
6. You Will Ramp Up Your Vitamin D Intake
If you’re anything like me, when you were growing up, you probably learned that vitamin D was good for maintaining bone health. And while that certainly is true, it’s also a nutrient that helps to prevent heart disease, reduce depression-related symptoms, and it can even help you to lose weight.
As far as your vaginal health goes, it’s a winner in that department because vitamin D helps to reduce vaginal dryness, decrease vaginal discomfort that is oftentimes associated with menopause, and can help to prevent you from getting urinary tract infections (UTIs) as well. So, make sure to get plenty of sun and make sure that vitamin D is in your multivitamins, too.
7. You Will Clean Out Your Clitoral Hood
If you ever want to read up on just how much your clitoris and a man’s penis has in common, check out Shape’s article, “The Surprising Anatomical Similarities Between Penises and Clitorises,” sometime. For the sake of time and space today, I’ll just say that I need all of the folks who think it’s cute to tease uncircumcised men to realize that their clitoral hood is also a type of foreskin — and just like men need to make sure to keep their foreskin clean, the same applies to our “hoods” too. In fact, back when I wrote the article, “7 Reasons You Should TOTALLY Be In Love With Your Clitoral Hood,” something that low-key freaked me out was reading about a woman who got so much gunk (including pubic hair) caught up in her hood, that she ended up having to get some of her hood removed (chile).
The moral here? About once a week, put some olive oil on a Q-Tip, gently pull back your clitoral hood, and swab the inner parts of it. That will prevent your own hairs and dried-up discharge, lubrication, etc., from lodging up in there and irritating it.
8. You Will Get (At Least) One Vagina Facial
Although some health experts frown on vaginal facials (“vajacials” as some call them), if you’re someone who gets waxed down below, look into an esthetician who’s been trained in how to give them. It’s a special kind of pampering treatment that will prevent and/or remove ingrown hairs, exfoliate your vulvar skin (especially your pubic mound), soften your pubic hair, reduce hyperpigmentation, and help to keep that part of your body well hydrated too. The main things to keep in mind with vajacials are a professional needs to do them, “less is more” as far as the chemicals that they use, and 2-4 times a year is more than likely all that you will need.
9. You Will Apply Fennel Oil to Your Labia
If you’ve got digestive issues, something that you might want to consider adding to your diet is fennel oil. The reason why I say that is it contains properties that are great at treating constipation, bloating, and gas. However, the reason why it made the “vagina resolutions list” is because it is packed with the kind of antioxidants and antimicrobial benefits that can help to soothe your labia if there is any type of minor irritation going on (like what you might experience on the day before or right after your cycle).
Plus, fennel is classified as being a phytoestrogen food; this means that it is a form of plant-based estrogen, which can do wonders for a woman who may be low in estrogen due to things like menopause. My two cents would be to mix 2-3 drops to a tablespoon of a vagina-sensitive carrier oil like carrot seed, hemp, or grapeseed and then apply it directly to your vulva (the outer layers of your vagina) or your abdomen — or both. Soothing-wise, you should notice almost immediate results.
10. You Will Use Condoms (More) Consistently
I’m hoping that everyone knows at this point that when condoms are used correctly, they help to prevent pregnancy and STIs/STDs. However, if you’re someone who is sleeping with more than one person at a time or you’ve been abstinent for a while and are about to sleep with someone new, you also should use condoms for another reason — to prevent different or new semen/sperm from irritating your vagina. Although it’s not as common for women to have a semen allergy, what the change in fluid can do is alter your pH, and that can lead to an itchy or swollen vagina and vulva.
See…these things aren’t hard to implement. Just make sure to remain consistent. If you resolve to follow through, your vagina (and vulva) will be in great shape — this year and every year that follows. Take care.
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