The Women With The Audacity To Make Love Of Self Their Priority
They told us we were never meant to be alone. As our breasts sprouted and our hips spread, we were told someone would eventually arrive to protect all of our vulnerable pieces.
We were encouraged to go off and get the career and the degrees, but voices chased us along the way reminding us we would never be complete without marriage or motherhood. And while success in those areas may resonate with some women, no one ever presented us with options for what a happy life could look like if those paths didn't pan out—until now. We are in the midst of a feminine revolution where long held beliefs surrounding singlehood are being reconstructed in the hands of women who dare to dream differently.
"I want to be with me," Brittaney Trent, 29 year-old producer, writer and beauty maven told xoNecole.
Courtesy of Brittaney Trent
Standing at 5'9 inches, the statuesque fashionista is not afraid to do the next chapter of her life alone.
"I'm not ready to be in a relationship right now, as crazy as it feels and sounds. I just feel like there's still more I need to do for me, and I haven't had a chance to do that yet."
It's been five months since Brittaney's devastating split from her first love. While describing the relationship as the "best one she's ever had," in retrospect, she acknowledges they did not agree on the trajectory of their future.
"The crazy thing is, everyone who knew us was shocked. We were so close. I felt blind sighted, to be honest. Because it was like, 'Wait, you feel like we want different things out of life so it's just better to end this now than later?' What the hell? But he's right. It all worked out. We just wanted long-term different things."
In the space since the breakup, Brittaney has made her needs, wants and desires take precedence over everything else.
"Relationships were my priority for the past year, and I feel like I lost myself. Also, because I wasn't really that happy in my career at the time, he was the only thing making me happy. Looking back at this girl, I don't even know who she was. I'm at this vital age where I need to figure out what's best for me."
While doing things for herself (which includes quiet time and a Netflix binge sesh), Brittaney also centers her creative work in service to others. As a journalist, she's interviewed the biggest sports stars from Serena Williams to Simone Biles, and she recently took her storytelling talents to the beauty brand side. As a skincare aficionado, the Atlanta native highlights skincare tips with her "Fresh Face Fridays" franchise and prides herself on recommending healing products to her followers.
"I get fulfillment out of helping people feel confident with their skin, because your skin is a huge deal. And if you have bad acne and you don't feel confident about it, there are products that can help."
Now Brittaney's challenge is learning to support her own needs just as much as she supports others.
"I'm re-loving myself. At this moment, right now, I'm falling in love with myself and saying, 'What does Brittaney need?'"
Courtesy of Branché Foston
Asking what do I need is a rebellious act in and of itself, particularly as Black women who are expected to emotionally and physically mule for the rest of the world. The new age woman prioritizes self-realization, and Reiki Master, yoga teacher and herbal medicine practitioner, Branché Foston, is using this momentum to energetically (and physically) rub healing balm into the shared wounds of Black women in South LA.
"I love that I'm able to support people on their healing journeys while also reaching them in really broad and creative ways," the 30-year-old CEO of wellness brand, The Honey Block, told xoNecole.
Branché has what some would call, "executive presence." Her open, Virgo Sun/Leo Rising demeanor attracts seekers who are captivated by her light and wish to hold that same warm energy in their own lives.
"As a brown-skinned black woman, I love that they get to see themselves in me," Branché said.
"I love that I live in South Central--this is ours. It's not for thin blonde women or for black people who have three degrees and live in Venice. I have never felt so fulfilled as a person before, as a soul."
Actualizing self-love in a town as color struck as Los Angeles is a modern miracle. The superficiality that once plagued LA's reputation is now being overshadowed by the collective healing work being done in its communities. "The energy in our generation is finally on a tip of genuine collaboration," Branché said.
"I think that so much of the beginning of our 20s is a little bit capitalistic--everyone on their own. Now we are kind of in this place of, oh no, this is really about working together across whatever your passion points are."
For Branché, diving deep into her own work as a healer opened up multiple modalities to heal herself.
Courtesy of Branché Foston
"The fact that I look in the mirror now, and I'm like, 'You are so fine. And whoever you date is so blessed,' means so much to me. But it took me 30 years to get to that point. The more I felt aligned in my soul work, the more I was able to see the beauty of myself."
Doing spirit work doesn't automatically satiate the human desire for companionship, but what Branché learned are the tools to move through the lonely moments versus being paralyzed by them.
"Being alone is a gift, it doesn't mean we have to feel lonely."
"And what yoga has taught me is to be the observer. When feelings of loneliness do arise, how can I acknowledge and observe them without feeling identified to them?"
Her newly earned self-awareness comes with a deep respect for who and what is in her space.
"For me, the more I did my own work, the more I fell in love with it and the more I didn't want to settle with anything in my life. That kind of energy helps you reframe all the relationships in your life. My life isn't about getting married. My life is about my soul purpose. Marriage can be an extension of that, but it's not who I am."
The narrow narrative surrounding femininity and our perceived dependence on marriage to be content seeped into our collective consciousness where it either bloomed or rotted. It bloomed for the ones who got out early—some peers stumbled upon young, healthy connections, and other women willfully, or unknowingly, committed to a life of martyrdom in the name of love.
The rest of us marched into the late 20s, 30s and 40s, well-championed by best friends, colleagues, and families, but without a forever teammate to call "home". In the loud space of alone, many women opted to celebrate a "full life", while still being hungry.
Courtesy of Cortnee Kelly
But this appetite is not our own—it's one inherited through systems of patriarchy and misogyny that were too cowardice to see what choices women would make without being forced to make them around men. Now we are in a unique position to decide what we crave, and for many women, that space is in communions with themselves.
"Sitting outside on my deck watching the glory of nature and then meditating is my favorite self-care ritual," 34-year-old nurse practitioner Cortnee Kelly told xoNecole. "Actually anything where I'm in nature and able to witness God's glory, infinite power and grace. I'm just in awe. That's when I'm most at peace and grounded in nature. In those quiet moments I find myself saying, 'This is love.'"
As a compassionate medical professional in the cardiology field, Cortnee finds purpose in getting someone to smile or laugh in their weakest moments. She is the type of soul that will give her expert medical advice to patients while holding a prayer for their healing in her mind.
While she's worked diligently throughout her career to keep sick hearts healthy and beating, ironically, her biggest self-work would be in healing her own heart.
Cortnee recently ended an on-again, off-again connection that she described as "draining mentally and emotionally."
"There were a lot of things that I put up with that in retrospect [were] depleting me of me. I stayed for fear of starting over and possibly missing my chance for a family. But this relationship was no longer serving me."
Cortnee has found her voice again in the days since the break up, no longer silencing her wishes for the convenience of others.
"My journey this year is one of self-acceptance. I'm taking the approach of feeling the fear and doing it anyways. There was one instance recently where I spoke my truth even though my voice quivered, and I felt good because I honored myself. I found myself smiling about it later because it felt good to stand up for what is right for me."
Cortnee has found freedom in this newfound respect for herself. In a posture of surrender, Cortnee is now embracing the life that's unfolding before her, instead of contorting her path to fit others' expectations of her womanhood.
"I can't control anyone. I can't make someone be faithful, fall in love with me, marry me, and decide to have children with me. Life is unpredictable and ever-changing. I realized the only thing I can control is me and being the best version of me as possible. In fact it's a priority. And it takes work. But I'm worth it."
Featured image courtesy of Brittaney Trent
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
Have you ever heard the saying, “You can't have it all?” Do you think there’s any truth to it? The more I resonate with the thought, I realize it just depends on what one considers “all.” In this “How We Met” story, I chatted with two individuals who have reached an unusual level of success but, for years, celebrated it alone. Now, they have a beautiful marriage centered around faith, family, and legacy.
But the journey to getting there required them to be uniquely intentional, submit fully to God, and practice an amount of vulnerability that I think most people would find uncomfortable – especially on the first date.
Santia Barnes, known more commonly as @Trackbaby001 on Instagram, earned the highest-paid contract ever for a woman in American football. Also, she is the first female athlete to have her own shoe company. With a combined social audience of 3 million followers, she’s established herself as a mega-influencer in the health/fitness and lifestyle space. But surprisingly, in our 48-minute phone call, we only discussed this for roughly 60 seconds. Instead, I had a beautiful conversation with Santia and her husband Isaac, a successful tech entrepreneur, about their dream-like partnership.
His company was one of the fastest growing in his county for two years, and he is the only Black entrepreneur to win a federal aviation award for being a government contractor. Plus, he previously won a $13.4 billion contract with the Air Force and Space Force (cues, "he got money" in my best Quinta Brunson voice). But seriously, both of them have such an amazing story alone – yet they made it even better by finding each other. It almost sounds too good to be true, right? Well, Santia felt the same way. In fact, on their first date, they actually tried to disqualify each other. Here’s how it went.
Let’s start from the beginning. How did you two meet?
Isaac: Well, firstly, we connected through the divine grace of God. But we met on Bumble and talked there, and she gave me such a hard time (laughs). But we built a connection online and then took it offline to the phone and eventually in person. Since that meeting, we’ve been stuck like glue.
Santia: Yes, we met on Bumble. But I’ve gotta add to that. I was pretty much done with love, relationships, and especially online dating. But it was right around Valentine's Day, and I felt like God was telling me to try just one more time. So, I created my profile and made it very blunt; I was super clear about what I wanted. I started swiping for a few days and eventually came across his profile, and I noticed our profiles were very similar.
I felt like it was rare for a man to be that intentional. Also, I like that he was attractive and an entrepreneur. I felt like he could understand my life. It took him a couple of days to swipe back, though, and I was little in my feelings. I was literally going to delete the app when he DM’d me. So, it was really the grace of God.
Tell me about your first date. What was the chemistry like?
Isaac: She was late (laughs). But we went to Seasons 52, which made sense because I’m vegan, and she likes to eat healthy. So I made reservations, but again, she was late. Eventually, she got there, and when she did, I saw the entire room shift. It was the weirdest thing. I’ve never seen that in real life. It was like the whole restaurant was looking at us. So we got a table, and immediately, it felt like our energy flowed together so smoothly.
You know how first dates can be awkward? This was exactly the opposite. She grilled me, and I grilled her. We asked some of the deepest questions ever. It was like we were trying to disqualify each other. After dinner, I walked her back to her car because she was recently injured. And in that moment, God talked to me. I knew that this is what it is.
Santia: We talked for like three hours on that date. I remember in the conversation, I said, “Not to be weird, but your energy makes me feel very calm.” That was a big green flag for me. I also remember him walking me back to my car and not trying anything but genuinely just caring for my leg. I was like, this is different. It was an A+ date.
"We asked some of the deepest questions ever. It was like we were trying to disqualify each other. After dinner, I walked her back to her car because she was recently injured. And in that moment, God talked to me. I knew that this is what it is."
Photo courtesy of Santia and Issac Barnes
So, what are some of these intense disqualifying questions y’all asked?
Isaac: We asked everything. We talked about our thoughts on kids, marriage, church, gender roles, family, past relationships, and trauma.
Santia: Yeah, we asked everything they tell you not to. But that’s how I knew he was the one; he didn’t get uncomfortable.
Okay, so if you were still dating, walk me through that next step. What was that conversation like when you two decided to take it to the next level?
Isaac: I had a business trip I had to go to in Orlando, and because of my connection with the Creator I knew she needed to go on this trip with me. She was overcoming tearing her ACL and just needed a break. So we took a road trip together. We drove from Atlanta to Orlando in the car for 8 hours, and we just did the work. We got into childhood trauma and aspirations. It got deep –
Santia: Like, I cried. I discovered stuff about myself I haven’t talked about with anyone else.
Isaac: In that moment, I developed a deeper sense of trust in her because of her vulnerability. And after that trip, I just knew. She still had some concerns, but I was good (laughs).
Santia: Yeah, because I felt like something had to be wrong. Like, I remember calling my mom and she tried to help me just embrace it. Eventually, I actually asked him, “What are we?” And he literally said, “You’re going to be my wife.” And I still was like, are you going to ask me to be your girlfriend though, and he did – and I said yeah. (laughs). But that was only like a month in. It was very quick.
It seems like communication has been a core part of your relationship. What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourselves individually through loving each other?
Isaac: That’s hard to answer just for this week. A lot of our stuff is self-discovery. But I’ll say, I learned how skeptical I was that this is possible. Also, I learned that all of what I went through is crafting me to be who I am today. Through this relationship, I’ve learned to embrace my 100% authentic self. Her love matters more to me than anything else, and that’s my #1 priority.
So if she accepts me how I am, who is the world to tell me I can’t be this way? She has allowed me to see myself more than any other human, and because of that, I have to shower her with as much love as possible.
Santia: I don’t even know where to start. He’s taught me a lot since day one. He made me more confident in who I am. As an influencer, you don’t always know who is there for the right reasons. But he’s made me feel 100% more confident in standing on who I am. He’s also taught me so much about business. He taught me how to open up more, not feel shame in who I am, and how to set boundaries and stick to them.
And Issac has melted every fear, doubt, and insecurity I’ve had about relationships. I could keep going, but overall, he has a really amazing way of teaching me in a loving way. Having someone that sees and understands me – and not just the social media me – but Santia Barnes, the individual, has been beautiful, and I’ve never experienced it until now.
"Issac has melted every fear, doubt, and insecurity I’ve had about relationships. Having someone that sees and understands me – and not just the social media me – but Santia Barnes, the individual, has been beautiful, and I’ve never experienced it until now."
Photo courtesy of Santia and Issac Barnes
How do you guys navigate past struggles, baggage to work toward your relationships?
Issac: On our honeymoon, I vowed that I would come into this relationship with a clear understanding of what’s holding me back so I can be my best self going through our marriage. For example, on our first day over there, we both wrote down all of the negative anchor thoughts we had around money and finances, and we literally went through every thought.
I found 50 financial aspirations, and every time I read something that I didn’t agree with, I wrote it down. And we talked about where these negative thoughts came from, going back to childhood.
Santia: We do that all the time. If anything comes up, we talk about it, try to get to the core of it, dissect it, and we solve it.
Okay, seriously do ya’ll argue at all (laughs)?
Santia: I mean, if we feel something, we say it.
Isaac: The way we got there is that we established early on that if we’re going to do this we have to be on the same team. We have a championship we’re trying to win, and that’s a family legacy. If something is going on, I’m gonna treat it like my teammate is going through it, and we’ll work through it. But it’s impossible not to have any challenges.
Santia: We don’t have to yell, scream, or be disrespectful though. We can talk in a calm voice and disagree. As long as we know that we’re on the same team, we’re good. I always know we’re not purposely trying to hurt each other, and I know that he's my partner. Looking at it from that lens changes things. We’ve only had two real arguments. It was early on, and when we dissected those too, we realized that back then, we didn’t know each other the way we do now. We weren’t sure we were on the same team (laughs).
Do you guys have any rituals or daily practices that help keep your relationship strong?
Isaac: To cement our process, we listen to our spiritual practice. We practice Sabbath every Friday evening until Saturday evening. So that means no work, no outside communication, we’re just in each other’s skin for 24 hours and experience the world together. Then we recap our week, things we’re grateful for from each other and from God, things that bother us, and then we process it right there. We do that every week.
Santia: We also go over a Bible verse and dissect it together. We have a lot of processes because when you have a plan, you can’t really fail.
Isaac: And the Bible verse always relates. It’s crazy. (laughs)
Photo courtesy of Santia and Issac Barnes
What are your love languages?
Santia: Mine is acts of service, gifts, and words of affirmation
Isaac: Mine is physical touch, acts of service, and words of affirmation.
Are there any challenges you guys had to work through?
Santia: This is my first time living with a man. So things that guys do – like not flushing the toilet, putting dishes in the sink when I’m washing the dishes, and stuff. Honestly. I was really scared about that because I love my space. But surprisingly, I adjusted very quickly. We both work from home and have our own offices, too. So it just kinda works out.
Isaac: For me, it was going from being a single man to adjusting to her needs. For example, she likes flowers. To me, that meant I occasionally bought her flowers. But to her, that means, nah, I want them multiple times a month. Date nights meant occasionally to me; she wants them weekly. It’s just about making sure our needs and expectations are articulated correctly. We come from different worlds, so it’s important to do that.
Finally, I’ll close with how did you know it was love?
Santia: We took a trip to NOLA – another road trip. I cried again and just remembered thinking there’s no one like him. I was like, God, if he’s not my person, this is a cruel joke. But more blatantly, like three months into us dating, I was so conflicted because I was like, I’m falling, and I don’t want to be hurt again.
I remember I had a dream where I was in this dark room and there was this figure there, and I knew it was God, and in that dream, I feel like he told me clear as day that Isaac was my person. Plus, my Mom hates everyone I’ve ever dated, but she was like he’s gonna be my son-in-law. I had so many confirmations that I eventually just let go.
Isaac: It was multiple moments. I really got confirmation on the first date, but I became sure in one moment. I was sitting in my office, and she came in, and we were talking about her making history. So I started showing her some of my awards, too, and at that point, she still didn’t know what I did. And she was like, why don’t people know about this, and I showed her my Facebook page – where I had made a small post with a few likes (laughs). And she was like, do you know how many young Black children don’t know this is possible? It was different.
I felt like a hypocrite because I do everything for the next generation. So, she allowed me to see myself in that totality and still hold me accountable. The only person who had done that for me was my Dad and [he] passed away a few days before my 18th birthday. So after that, that did it for me. Then we went to the DR for my brother's anniversary, and she met my family and I saw how well she blended with my family, and I just knew.
Santia and Isaac are continuing to grow their individual businesses and love journey. Through that process, they have created an intentional dating platform on Instagram called @dateintentional1.
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Featured image courtesy of Santia and Issac Barnes