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.