When you are seeking a job in entertainment, it can be hard to build your network and get your foot in the door. Luckily, there are organizations such as WEEN that makes things just a little easier.
I first heard about WEEN (Women In Entertainment Empowerment Network) back in 2009 as a sophomore student at Howard University. True to the Howard stereotype I was a woman on my grind and unwilling to stop at nothing to make my dreams a reality. I knew I wanted to work in the entertainment business (at the time I was more focused on marketing than journalism), and became actively involved on our campus in entertainment organizations as a volunteer for the Homecoming committee, and the campus radio station WHBC, in addition to a bunch of other initiatives that I had my hand in.
But one thing I knew even then was the importance of having a solid support system of likeminded women. Anybody whose dabbled in entertainment knows that it's a tough industry to navigate. It'll test your strength, your perseverance, and your dedication. You'll find out if you're really as much of a go-getter as you claim to be, and you'll learn how much integrity and morals you really have. With so many challenges it becomes vital to have a group of women you can turn to when you need a bit of advice regarding your career, or even just an opinion on navigating the various circumstances that you'll surely be presented with.
So when I learned about WEEN, their network of women in entertainment and their mission to empower women and highlight those who positively portray women in the industry, I was elated. That year they were doing a scholarship fund, and I, along with one other scholarship recipient, submitted a video detailing why we deserved the award. Out of many applicants we were selected and invited to attend the WEEN Awards that took place in Washington, D.C. To say that it was an experience of a lifetime would be an understatement. As a girl coming from Daytona Beach, FL by way of Greensboro, NC, it was an honor to walk around a room (and rooftop) of people that I had always looked up to and admired. I shook hands with Debra Lee, snapped photos with Angie Martinez and Malinda Williams, joked around with Vivica A. Fox, and Shanti Das, and semi-stalked MC Lyte for a photo before the night ended. (Yes I was stanning, no I'm not ashamed!)
I graced the stage to accept my award in front of a room full of women (and men as well) whom I've watched and admired, and over the years ran into many of these people again throughout my various jobs and internships. And though they probably don't remember me, I remember them and those few hours when I felt the warmth of their support amongst one another.
On November 18, the non-profit organization celebrated their 5th annual WEEN Awards and eight years of service—honoring notable women Regina Hall (Think Like a Man) and Naturi Naughton (Power), Faith Evans (Singer/Songwriter), journalists Cari Champion (ESPN) and Rocsi Diaz (HLN), and Tiffany Smith Anoa'i (SVP of Diversity & Communications, CBS Entertainment), and Marilyn Mosby (Baltimore State Attorney).
It's amazing to witness the growth and success of such a powerful organization that builds you up while allowing you to build your network, and is proof that we are stronger together as women supporting one another, than we are apart tearing one another down.
Following the event, I spoke with co-founder Valeisha Butterfield, and she gave me a little more insight into the WEEN movement and the WEEN Academy, which is cultivating the next generation of women bosses.
What's different about the WEEN Awards now than the prior years?
It was our 5th annual so we were really excited about that so not only to highlight the achievement of our honorees but in our 5th year having the awards and our 8th year of service since we were founded in 2007, it really was a celebration of the honorees, the organization, and most importantly the WEEN Academy graduates. and so you know it really was a celebration of all those things and it was exciting to really watch some of our academy grads and see their accomplishments and how they've grown over the years.
You guys also do the WEEN Academy, which is a free four-week crash course in the entertainment business with classes taught by leading celebrities and entertainment industry executives. Can you talk more about that and how you've seen it impact the young women?
It's an annual summer program, but members from all four of our classes came back this year to celebrate, and so it was really like a class reunion for a lot of them. So many of them now are working mid-level and senior-level jobs at places like BET, VH1 and radio network stations--and the list goes on and on. Many of them are doing well now.
What is the training that the students have to go through during the summer course?
The program has a curriculum that we created with Dr. Nsenga Burton, and that curriculum is focused on how to help women compete and navigate the entertainment industry. So we cover areas such as marketing, public relations, advertising and talent management. The list goes on and on of all the things in that curriculum. And when the students complete the program, they not only receive WEEN certification, but they are groomed and ready to take on their new roles in the entertainment industry whether it's as an intern or an entry level job.
Editor's note:At the completion of the program, top WEEN Academy students receive an official WEEN certification, a WEEN mentor for twelve months to support the graduate's progress post program, and access to internships in the entertainment business.
How do you go about selecting the students?
No experience is required, but every March (Women's History Month) we have an open audition where young ladies (college students form 18 - 22-years-old), sometimes thousands, come from all over the country to compete for 30 slots in the academy. The young women come in and we have a celebrity panel of judges (think like American Idol), and the judges listen to their business pitch for 60 seconds on why they should be inducted into the academy. Again, they do not have to have entertainment experience, but they do have to have passion, drive, and a hunger to succeed because the academy is extremely intense, just like the entertainment industry is.
You also have the mentors involved too, right?
Yes, every WEEN Academy graduate is assigned a mentor for one full year after the program. Those mentors are there to answer the questions and to help them navigate the steps they'll need after the academy to get their first job.
This year you also honored women who aren't in entertainment, but are also making great contributions to the community (e.g. Marilyn Mosby). How did you select this year's nominees?
We have a small board that helps with the nominations, so the ladies nominate the honorees of their choice based on their work to empower other women, their track record, their consistency, and there's a formula that they use for all of those things. There's a nomination process and then we vote as a board and as a committee. We had seven honorees this year, and all were selected, nominated, and voted on by the board of the committee.
Is there a certain criteria that they have to meet in order to be nominated?
Yes, but within that category. For example, Tiffany Smith Anoa'i (SVP of Diversity & Communications, CBS Entertainment), she accepted the Corporate Leadership Award. Also Regina Hall received the Image Award because of her positive portrayal in television and film and on screen. And so there are categories that went to each of the ladies that were honored, and it was definitely based on their track record and their accomplishments over the last year.
What's next for WEEN?
Of course, the WEEN Academy we will have again this year; we're hoping to expand it into new markets. Also, we're rolling out a college campus program throughout the country to serve as WEEN reps, and ultimately the goal there is to create chapters on college campuses, so we're starting with the reps this year with the goal of having small campus teams. Also, we will be releasing our first annual WEEN Power 100 list to highlight women and the unsung heroes in the entertainment industry and beyond who deserve the recognition and the work they do in their areas of business and for their work to empower women. So those are a hosts of things we are doing right now.
What does being a WEEN woman mean to you?
A WEEN woman means that you are fearless—you take life as it comes. You do it fearlessly, with integrity, and most importantly you're willing to do the work.
Find out more about WEEN by visiting their website WEENonline.org.
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.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The Fall Equinox begins on September 23, 2023, and it’s time to embrace abundance, gain clarity, and know that you are worthy of your desires. The Fall Equinox marks the beginning of fall and the end of summer and is a turning point of the year, where things settle in and come to fruition. The energy that fall brings is one of harvest, but it is also one of release, letting go, and finding your ground. Coming from a summer of intensity, drama in love, and overall moving through a space of deep spiritual growth- now that fall is here, we are ready to decompress, dream, and enjoy that which we have created for ourselves.
What Is the Energy of the Fall Equinox 2023?
The energy this fall is opening up new doors of abundance and is a time of reaping your rewards in life. Fall begins at the same time as Libra Season, and a lot of these blessings have to do with love and the relationship developments that will be taking place over the next few months. With a New Moon Solar Eclipse in Libra occurring a few weeks after fall begins on October 14th, something enchanting is happening in romance right now. The scales are coming into balance, new beginnings are occurring, and clarity prevails.
Relationships over the next few months are about focusing on the gifts and gratitude you find in them and accepting where things need to change as well.
By the time winter begins, most of the planets that are currently in retrograde will be direct, and this signifies the change of pace that fall is bringing. This fall highlights Eclipse Season overall, and the Full Moon Lunar Eclipse in Taurus on October 28th will be a time of creating boundaries, honoring your values and energy, and closing a chapter in your life that doesn’t align. Financial worlds are growing and finding new ground, but with Jupiter still in retrograde in Taurus until December 30th, patience is needed here.
Over the next few months, give yourself the space to gain some new perspectives, make room for love, and grow in abundance.
Your guidance this fall is to take those first steps toward the goals you have been pondering over this year. There is a Full Moon in your sign a week after fall begins, and you get the opportunity to enter this season with less baggage and more closure. You will possibly be starting a new position or working in a new field, and you need all the good energy to back you right now. Know that you can count on your skills and talents to move you further in life and that help will be there when you least expect it. This is a fall of abundance for you, Aries, claim it.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 29, Oct. 13, Nov. 13, Nov. 21
Patience, patience, patience, Taurus. You are creating something beautiful in the world right now, and the time it’s taken to get you here will all be worthwhile. Your guidance this fall is to nurture your world and your dreams and to bring more love and compassion to your life. You are preparing for a new reality but need some more time to dream it up and define that which you want for yourself and your future. The Full Lunar Eclipse happening this fall is occurring in your sign, and you are moving through some major closures in your life right now. This is a creative time for you, Taurus.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 28, Oct. 29, Nov. 6, Nov. 20
This fall is all about taking care of yourself and valuing your time and energy, Gemini. The way you see yourself and your life are coming up for review right now, and you are being urged to look at yourself in a better light. Your ruling planet, Mercury, goes retrograde for the last time this year on December 13th, just before fall ends, and this time is all about taking what you have learned and choosing better for yourself. You may be tested to be more confident or true to yourself right now and over the next few months, and it’s about owning your part in this life and standing up for what you want.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 25, Oct. 21, Nov. 20, Dec. 12
This is an abundant fall for you, Cancer. You have worked diligently on claiming the opportunities and new doors that have been opening for you, and you are feeling free to be your successful self. You are encouraged in your independence right now, and you have proven to yourself just how talented you are and how much you have grown. No major aspects are happening in your sign this fall, giving you the space to breathe, create, and receive your rewards. Happiness fills your world, and even though you still feel like you are just getting started in a sense, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the gifts that are presenting themselves today.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 13, Oct. 15, Nov. 12, Nov. 13
This fall is a turning point for you in love, Leo. New developments are taking place in your relationships, and you are being received especially favorably. This is the time to open your heart to growth and new possibilities and to get creative with what you are looking for right now. The Last Quarter Moon happening in your sign on November 5th will be a turning point for you this fall. Your unique charm and charisma are enough, and you attract many to you through your natural energy and love for life. Your ship is coming in this fall, and your heart is fulfilled.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 1, Oct. 31, Nov. 5, Nov. 14
Virgo, this fall is a blessing for the heart space. You are feeling in tune emotionally, and there is positive energy coming your way and into your love life. You have spent a lot of this year healing, forgiving, and finding your voice, and over the next few months, you will be creating the spaces you have been looking to enter in your life. Venus enters your sign for a month on October 8th, and there are some pleasant surprises in store for you during this time. Fresh starts are coming in for you, and spiritually, you are awakening to the gifts within you and in your heart. Your beauty is showing, and love is coming in for you this fall.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 25, Oct. 22, Nov. 5, Nov. 20
This fall is a new beginning for your financial world, Libra. Autumn begins the same day Libra Season does, and you have some extra motivation and energy within you right now. You are ready to put the action behind the intentions you have been setting for yourself financially, and this is a time of plans coming together and falling through to success. The more you stay focused and diligent, the more opportunities that can come for you right now. The first month of fall, the Sun is in your sign, and this is really the time to get things moving in your life, especially with a New Moon Eclipse in Libra on October 14th happening as well.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 27, Oct. 14, Oct. 30, Nov. 20
It’s all about the vision for you right now, Scorpio. You are focused on the future, your path ahead, and manifesting your dreams, and there is something passionate about the next few months for you. You may be taking some risks this fall as you test the boundaries on how far you want to go with something and what worlds are opening up to you now. Mars is in your sign from October 12th until November 24th, and life is exciting for you right now. You have your eyes on the prize and are ready to move forward toward the things that are lighting you up right now.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 12, Oct. 13, Nov. 6, Nov. 13,
This fall is about taking a leap of faith, Sagittarius. Your guidance over the next few months is to do the things that you would do if you knew you would be supported in doing them. Less self-doubt is needed now, as you are walking on new ground. You are moving towards personal healing you have been wary of from the beginning, and you are ready to let go of some energy that has been holding you back. Trust that once you decide on something, the universe instantly begins to make it happen for you. Your season begins on November 22nd, and it’s time to put yourself first more. Have courage in yourself this fall.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 8, Nov. 22, Nov. 24, Dec. 12
This fall is all about clarity for you, Capricorn. You are a wise soul, and you are owning this energy about yourself right now. Over the next few months, you will be developing spiritually, helping those who need your sound advice, and evolving in life. You have found a new sense of enlightenment and are enjoying the clear perspective that has been gained. Mercury goes retrograde in your sign on December 13th, right before fall ends, and this is when you will be feeling more tested to take the lead in your life and use your voice. Overall, fall 2023 is your time to surrender to the good within you and in your life, Capricorn.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 10, Oct. 23, Nov. 4, Dec. 1
Things are moving fast for you this fall, Aquarius. This is a successful, harmonious, and passionate time for you, as many opportunities come your way at once. It will be hard to settle down with all the energy flowing through your life over the next few months, as you have so much to do and so many people to see. Overall, however, this is positive energy that you have been looking forward to in your life, and everything is coming together and moving forward where it was once stagnant. Fall is giving you the closure and the opportunity to reinvent yourself and start on new, solid ground in your life.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 30, Oct. 31, Nov. 20, Nov. 28
Your guidance for fall is to have balance in your life. There is a lot of new coming in for you, but you are also working on letting go of what has fallen. You have grown in many ways this year, and financially, you have seen growth as well but may be feeling the weight of responsibilities this has come with now. To move through this season with the most grace, give yourself more time to rest, to be, and allow things to fall into place on their own. Saturn has been retrograde in your sign since June and goes direct this fall on November 4th, Pisces. This is your opportunity to see things more clearly, protect your energy, and feel more in tune with your internal guidance system.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 22, Nov. 4, Nov. 6, Dec. 12
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by myriam meloni/Getty Images