What Self-Care Looks Like To Grapevine TV Creator Ashley Akunna
For xoNecole's Finding Balance series, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
Some of our greatest creations often begin as the smallest seeds and grow under the most unlikely of circumstances. For Ashley Akunna, creator of The Grapevine TV, hers sparked at the cusp of her senior year of college, during the peak of an economic recession.
As she transitioned into her new post-grad life, she began to notice a discrepancy in news coverage that spoke to her generation's experiences and decided to do something about it. Applying her background in film, she developed a digital platform that would give a face and voice to the many nuanced conversations that she witnessed taking place through the boundless frontier of social media. In her eyes, it was time to change the narrative surrounding the millennial experience, and thus The Grapevine TV was born.
As the showrunner of the hit series, Ashley is in the business of creating content that is, as she calls it, "Edutainment" programming. The round table, panel-led show provides a safe space for conversations surrounding the Black Millennial experience to be shared. You may remember the explosively viral moment addressing whether Bruno Mars was guilty of cultural appropriation, but the show covers an array of candid and thought-provoking topics such as the school-to-prison pipeline, why Black women are single, and even colorism.
In an era where platforms are being created for and by the Black women, Ashley resides in the company of women who are building their own doors and letting others in with them. From running a growing media empire to maintaining healthy personal relationships, it takes discipline to juggle it all, and in this installment of xoNecole's Finding Balance series, we find out just how Ashley Akunna gets it done.
What does your overall self-care routine look like for you?
My self-care routine is bi-weekly massages for ninety minutes. It's a time where I can just clear my head and relax. Self-care also looks like going to church and giving God praise on Sundays. I know that it really helps me start off my week with a mind full of gratitude and abundance.
What is an average day or week like for you?
An average day starts off with me praying. Then I write in my journal and jot down all my feelings. Then I do some reading. I'm currently reading Iyanla Vanzant and just a lot of self-help books and learning ways to better myself. I think life is all about growth and lot of growth comes from your experiences but it also comes from knowledge. After that, I meditate with crystals from 10-15 minutes and do mirror affirmations where I just speak life into myself and over my goals. Next, I workout and head to the office to start work. I'm usually there from about 11am-7pm. When I'm done, I head home and maybe work some more or watch a movie or a documentary and eat. That's pretty much my day.
What do you find to be the most hectic part of your week? How do you push through?
Delegation and prayer are great. I don't get anxiety about my work because I always know that I'm going to get it done and it's going to be a success. Pushing through, putting my head down, and getting the work done has never been an issue for me because this is what I love to do. But when weeks are hectic, [my team] and I will be like, "Look, I know it's crazy right now, but we're going to plow through this."
"I don't get anxiety about my work because I always know that I'm going to get it done and it's going to be a success."
How do you find balance with:
I definitely have a lot of group chats, talking to my friends throughout the day through texts, making time to do lunch and go to events. I have a great balance in terms of my personal life and if my friends don't hear from me in a while, they're always like, "What's up? We gotta do dinner." So, my bills for lunches and dinners? It's a lot. (Laughs) Also, bringing different groups of friends along to meet one another helps to also maximize the time spent.
Definitely getting my cardio in on the treadmill and lifting weights. Stretching regularly also helps.
My time dating has been interesting… I'll use that word… interesting. But you know, I am dating now and I found someone great, so yeah, I don't have an issue with that. I think when you're dating someone who's busy like you and who has something going on like you, as long as they communicate and are understanding of your time and schedule, then it works.
I juice a lot, I have my cheat days, but I juice a lot. I do acupuncture weekly and practice the art of deep breathing. Some of us don't breathe properly. Like, when was the last time you took a deep breath and not because you were at the doctor? I practice deep breathing and I think that helps with my overall health. There's also an element of nutrition and I want to get into Reiki, which is when people place hands on you and heal certain parts of your body. It's a part of Asian culture and I've been doing my research on it and it seems really cool.
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
There were definitely times I wanted to quit and give up. Even though I had a job that helped me pay for the show, I was still living at [my parent's house] and there were times when we weren't making any headway with the show, our numbers weren't rising, and it just felt like nobody cared. Everyone was watching reality TV shows but they didn't watch real sh*t; they don't watch educational stuff. There were times when I was super depressed and felt like the show wasn't going anywhere – that I was doing it all in vain. I saw people who I felt at the time didn't deserve their success and you know there's times when you're jealous. But what really helped me was talking to God and talking to my family. My sisters played a pivotal part in the show being here today. They would speak life into me, tell me not to give up, send me money and help strengthen my relationship with God. I couldn't do what I do if I didn't have God in my life.
"There were times when I was super depressed and felt like the show wasn't going anywhere – that I was doing it all in vain. I couldn't do what I do if I didn't have God I my life."
Do you ever detox? What does that look like for you?
I definitely do social media detoxes every couple of months. I spent a lot of my 20s running around, feeling burnt-out and now at 30, I make an effort to spend time with family, friends, and at the spa getting massages and facials. For me, I'm doing what I love and that doesn't feel like work. That just feels like a fun day at the "office." Doing what you love can be hard work, so I do take time to unplug. Thankfully, I have a team to help me do that.
What is something you think others forget when it comes to finding balance?
We definitely live in an era of work, work, work. Especially in America, we forget to take care of ourselves. That's why I'm happy about this new age of self-help being ushered in so people can find balance.
What does success mean to you?
Success to me means that I'm getting all of my dreams out. That means getting The Grapevine on television, writing and directing the films, scripts, and television shows I'm working on. Once I get all those things into fruition, then I can say I'm successful.
For more of Ashley and Grapevine TV, keep up with her on Instagram.
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
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2023 has become the year of celebrity breakups with headlines breaking left and right about celebs filing for divorce or ending high-profile relationships. The latest couple to announce their dissolution? British actress Jodie Turner-Smith. TMZ reported that Jodie has filed for a divorce from her husband, Dawson Creek alum Joshua Jackson.
As far as her reason for calling it quits, Jodie cited "irreconcilable differences," according to TMZ, and has requested joint custody of the couple's daughter, Juno Rose Diana Jackson. Late last year there were rumblings of there being "trouble in paradise" for the couple after the media realized they were no longer following each other on Instagram.
Those rumors were more than laid to rest when Jodie and Joshua went to the 2023 Oscars together earlier this year, and even more recently, when they celebrated her birthday together last month during the September unveiling of the Lotus Emeya.
Jodie Turner-Smith celebrates her birthday with husband Joshua Jackson at the unveiling of the new fully-electric Lotus Emeya on September 07, 2023 in New York City.
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Lotus
Despite seeming particularly happy and in love, perhaps the writing was already written on the wall even then. In the past, Jodie has been very celebratory publicly about her love for her estranged husband, even boldly recounting their love story for the books in a 2021 interview with Seth Meyers.
When Jodie and Joshua met, it was while at his birthday party in 2018. Their relationship was hot and heavy from the start, with Jodie openly noting that they began as a "one-night stand." During her 2021 interview with Seth Meyers, she jokingly referred to their love story as a "three-year one-night stand." She shared:
"First of all, I saw him before he saw me and when I saw him, I was like, 'I want that.' And then when he saw me, I just pretended like I didn't see him. He had to yell across the room to me, and I was wearing this T-shirt from a movie called Sorry to Bother You and [actress] Tessa Thompson plays a character called Detroit, and she has this T-shirt that says, 'The Future Is Female Ejaculation.'
"And so, he shouts across the room, 'Detroit!' He comes over and… does this really cute, charming thing that he does and just all night -- he just basically followed me around the party."
The couple were together from that moment forth, and even made things "Instagram official" less than two weeks later while on a dinner date. Joshua would later clarify to Insider that the night they met in 2018 was not a 'one-night stand' or a 'three-year one-night stand' like his then-wife joked but instead, it was "technically a three-night stand."
"It was sealed with a kiss that night and then we didn't leave each other's sides for, well, three years now," Joshua continued at the time.
In a July 2021 interview with Jimmy Fallon, Joshua dropped more details about the why behind getting married. He revealed that he didn't know he wanted to get married to Jodie until "the moment she asked me."
"She asked me on New Year's Eve. We were in Nicaragua. It was very beautiful, incredibly romantic, we were walking down the beach and she asked me to marry her."
He added, "I did not know [she would propose], but she was quite adamant and she was right. This is the best choice I ever made."
Joshua Jackson Reveals Jodie Turner-Smith Proposed To Him
Jodie received quite a bit of flack for proposing to Joshua because it goes against tradition and what society sees as acceptable for a woman to do to a man, and proposing isn't one of them. No matter how much time has passed, the viewpoints around who should do the proposing and who should be proposed to are still very traditional.
After being on the receiving end of such backlash, Joshua would later clarify to the media in a separate interview that it wasn't just Jodie's proposal to him that sealed the deal of them getting married, he proposed to her too. She might have initiated it, but Joshua followed through.
"I accidentally threw my wife under the bus because that story was told quickly and it didn't give the full context and holy Jesus, the internet is racist and misogynist," he explained to Refinery29 that same year. "We were in Nicaragua on a beautiful moonlit night, it could not possibly have been more romantic."
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
He continued, "And yes, my wife did propose to me and yes, I did say yes, but what I didn't say in that interview was there was a caveat, which is that I'm still old school enough that I said, 'This is a yes, but you have to give me the opportunity [to do it too].'"
"She has a biological father and a stepdad, who's the man who raised her. [I said], 'You have to give me the opportunity to ask both of those men for your hand in marriage.' And then, 'I would like the opportunity to re-propose to you and do it the old-fashioned way down on bended knee.' So, that's actually how the story ended up."
Joshua and Jodie would eventually marry in December 2019. Shortly thereafter, Jodie gave birth to the couple's first child, Janie, in 2020.
In a recent interview with Elle UK, Jodie shared the ways becoming a mother to Juno helped to heal her of her wounds from colorism she experienced in the past. "It's interesting because I had a lot of resistance to becoming a mother and, throughout my life, I always said if I were to have children, I wanted to have Black, Black babies so that I could affirm them as children with the love that I felt I needed to have been affirmed with by the outside world," Jodie shared with the outlet.
She continued, "Then I fell in love with my husband and we talked about having kids. I did have this mini pause, where I was like, 'She's going to be walking through the world not only having an experience that I did not have, but looking like people that, in a way, I'd always felt a little bit tormented by.' Now that I've got this little, tiny, light-skinned boss, I feel like it’s the universe teaching me lessons. I've been given a daughter who looks this way to heal my own conversations around colorism."
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Featured image by Amy Sussman/Getty Images