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15 xoNecole Writers Of The Past & Present Share What The Brand Means To Them

Cue the tears.

Workin' Girl

This week marks something major for the xoNecole brand as we ring in five years as a media company! When it comes to anniversaries, the fifth year is considered a major one. It's a milestone and representative of all that you have weathered through and the blessings you've received. Here at xoNecole, as we look back at the last five years, we can't help but be filled with joy at all we've been able to achieve. With the awe-inspiring Necole Kane at our helm as founder, we have evolved from a website to a fully realized digital destination.

Year-to-year, she has continuously pushed boundaries by leveling up the xoNecole brand in new and innovative ways. From sold-out in-person signature events like ElevateHER and Pajamas & Lipstick, to dynamic social media and video content and launching a top-performing podcast and new membership app, xoNecole has paved the way for what it means to be a brand that truly caters to the amplification of Black women and their voices. And that's where it all begins and ends, through the captivating words of the women who make up our xoNecole team of contributing writers.

In honor of this auspicious moment in time for the brand, the editorial team expressed gratitude to Necole, what xoNecole means to us as a whole, our favorite articles, and our wishes for Necole from today and beyond. Cue the tears!

Shellie R. Warren

Courtesy of Shellie R. Warren

Age: 46

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: Fall 2018-present

Most Common Verticals: Love & Relationships, Beauty & Fashion, Life & Travel, Culture & Entertainment

"This is actually my 20th year as a mostly full-time writer (meaning, I do a couple of other things for a check but writing pays the main bills). I've had a lot of experiences with a ton of platforms. Two of my favorite things about penning for xoNecole is I am able to be completely myself and I don't have to chase a check down. When you've been working in the Black media lane for as long as I have, believe me when I say that both of those are a true blessing. There is a lot about how I see things that is somewhat unconventional in the sense that I've never been married yet I'm a marriage life coach, I write about sex all of the time even though I'm almost 14 years abstinent and I'm profoundly fond of the Bible and Hebrew studies yet I don't go to church. All of this makes me a quirky fit yet xoNecole is like, 'Sure! We'll take it and pay you for it without you having to wait a billion years.' Working for them has been pretty easy-going and gift-affirming, for almost two years now, consistently so, and that is what I wish all people could say about their own jobs.

"Necole has been great at affirming my work. It's not so much that I 'need' that at this stage in the game, but for an EOC to make the time to say, 'Girl, you did that!' or 'I really enjoy what you bring to this space', that is a warm fuzzy that makes me feel appreciated for what I contribute. Necole and Sheriden (the managing editor) have both been pretty consistent in that way; that I am not just a content creator but a valued member of the tribe.

"Necole, I just want to thank you for allowing me to be a contributing voice for your creative baby. I have seen a lot of people talk about how they were such big fans of Necole Bitchie as well, but I actually got truly hip to you as you were making your transition. While this lifestyle platform is wonderful all on its own, it's your stepping out on faith that really moves me. It takes a very bold person to listen to the small inner voice that says, 'There's something better for you out there' when you're already successful. For you to have chosen to listen to it is honorable."

"Creative people come in different forms. You are a living example of that. But for you to take this kind of risk, without a full blueprint, that helps to give other people the courage to do the same. I am profoundly grateful to be entrusted to contribute to your a creative child that I know you hold so dear. I truly am. Thank you. Oh, in the Bible, five symbolizes 'grace', by the way. Embrace all of that!"

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife"

"10 Wonderful Reasons Why Consistent Sex In Marriage Is So Important"

"14 Lessons I've Learned From 14 Sex Partners"

"Why I Named The Children I Aborted"

"Are You 'Waiting On Your Boaz'? Make Sure You Know What That Means, Sis."

Charmin Michelle

Age: 33

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: 2019-present!

Most Common Verticals: "Across the board, but most commonly 'As Told To'."

"For me, xoNecole is the personification of a goal that ultimately manifested into achievement. It has been my teacher, my mentor, my friend. A sculptor to the womanhood ideologies that I wish to project into the world, into my friendships, and to my family. Personally, Necole's journey is...you know, we've watched her evolve. And that's the beauty in celebrating her. She did it, she won! She is literally a walking, dancing, smiling, gem-carrying testimony. How do you thank an actual blueprint? See metaphor.

"Whew, that woman. We were just having a conversation the other day about a post that specifically touched her, and I told her that her team goes out of our way to give her flowers because her impact is bigger than herself. I'm sure she knows this, people say it all the time--but it won't truly hit her until one day when the journey is behind her and she's sitting on her front porch, by herself, retired from this world and immersing herself in the reflection of how she did it. For her to be the face of so much, she somehow manages to individualize her time to so many. Me, her team. Clients. Anyone who reached out to her. She sacrifices so much of her own selfishness for us, ladies. Necole, I just hope that, even in those times when you're frustrated, or you question it, or even when you wish you may have chosen differently, that you know that. I love you, sis!"

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"My Mother Was My First Investor. And This Must Be Normalized."

"I Took A Break From My Ambitions For A Year To Self-Heal"

"The Ups And Downs Of Explaining Complicated Careers To Family Members"

"What It Means To Hold Space For Yourself And Your Community"

"10 Black Women Pulling Up To The C-Suite On The Boards Of Fortune 500 Companies"

Teisha Leshea

Age: 33

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: January 2020-present

Most Common Verticals: "Inspiration and wellness are the bulk of my articles."

"xoNecole provides women with a voice without judgment. It allows women from all walks of life to give perspective on things that aren't talked about. It enables me as a writer to challenge myself and tap into my vulnerabilities. Necole is a real example of what transition looks like. She carved a lane for herself that can't be duplicated. It was original. The fact that she trusts and honors her team is commendable.

"Necole, I just want to say Thank You. Thank you for inspiring and encouraging women to be the best versions of themselves. Thank you for allowing a little unknown writer like me to tell my story."

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"It's OK To Not Want Children"

"5 Holistic Ways I Take Care Of My Vaginal Health"

"Dear Queen: I've Struggled To Love You Correctly"

"Start Your Spiritual Journey Today With These 5 Easy Steps"

"No More Monday Blues: A Prayer For When You Need God's Strength To Carry You Through"

Erica Green

Age: 38

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: November 2019-present

Most Common Verticals: Beauty & Fashion

"I often tell people that Necole's story is one of my favorites. Her story is one of determination, courage, strength, grit, sacrifice, and heart. We live in a world that often celebrates inauthenticity and doing whatever is necessary to stay relevant. So, to see a woman walk away and start over at the pinnacle of her career because it no longer served her or fulfilled her is the most authentic, boss shit I've ever seen. She recognized that she had evolved and had the courage to walk in her new truth. That will forever be beautiful to me."

"I remember the first time I saw Necole in person. It was at her ElevateHer event in 2019. I remember seeing her walk out and stand in the back not too far from where I was sitting. As she looked around at the crowd of beautiful black women who had gathered there because of her, she cried. It literally gave me goosebumps. You see, I stepped out of my comfort zone to attend that event in Atlanta. I drove from North Carolina by myself and only told my parents where I was going. I knew if I invited someone to come along, I would have hid behind whoever I was with and would not have put myself out there like I did. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Prior to attending the event, I knew of her transition to xoNecole so I didn't expect to be so inspired after hearing her story in person. But, it fueled me. It rejuvenated me. It motivated me. And the fact that she looked like me (a black woman) was even more inspiring.

"At the time I had recently started my own blog but was unsure if I should stick with it and really pursue my passion for writing. What I took from her story that day was to do it. Do it even if people don't understand. Do it even if people think you're crazy. Do it even if you lose friends or money. Do it even if you have to do it scared. A few months later, I met Necole again. This time we talked for over 30 minutes about life, being single and dating. She's so easy to talk to by the way. We followed each other on Instagram and as they say, the rest is history. If you had told me that I would one day be writing for such an incredible woman and her amazing platform, I wouldn't have believed you.

"Necole once said at an event I attended that she is so motivated by a line from a Beyonce song. If I remember correctly the song was 'Formation'. Well Necole, I was motivated by something you said at ElevateHer. I hear it every time I doubt myself. Every time I want to quit. Every time I think I waited too long to write and be the type of woman I want to show up as in this world. You said, 'It's never too late to become the person you want to be.' That has and will always stick with me. Thank you for not only giving me a chance to write for your platform but thank you for inspiring me and pushing me to live and show up in this world as my highest self. Congratulations on year 5! This is just the beginning of what I know will be an epic journey!"

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"These Black Plant Moms Are Cultivating Self-Care Through Houseplants"

"Before You Quit Your Day Job, Check Out This Advice From Six-Figure Entrepreneur Pauleanna Reid"

"I Met Him In An UberPOOL & Now We're Married!"

"How To Lower Stress Levels At Work"

"How This Freelance Photographer Manifested The Career Of Her Dreams"

D'Shonda Brown

Age: 24

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: March 2020-present

Most Common Verticals: Exclusive Interviews, "Money Talks" and "Finding Balance"

"xoNecole definitely means a lot to me because the content is so versatile. As a woman in her mid-20s, it's so important for me to find relatable content where I feel as though the writers are my girlfriends and I have a genuine bond with people who are keeping it real with me. As a writer, this platform has helped me grow in unimaginable ways between my editors, my colleagues and even people who have followed my work because of my bylines in xoNecole. It's taught me to really push myself out of my comfort zone and there will always be a tribe of dope Black women there to support me no matter what I write and how I write it.

"I've been riding with Necole Kane since Necole Bitchie. To see her transformation into this renowned lifestyle brand that's bigger than just her is incredible to say the least. I absolutely admire her and it would be an honor to be able to replicate a sixteenth of the things that she's done for Black women. I'm now part of Necole Kane's family that contributes to the growth of Black women everywhere who are always reading our stories about sex, friendships, traveling, mental health and so many other things that show people that Black women are fabulous, we're human and we bleed blood and feel feelings just as anyone else does."

"To Necole: Watching you has been a pleasure and I spoke you into existence. I don't know if you remember, but back in January, I put in my Instagram story (and tagged you) that one day I would write for xoNecole. You reposted me and said, 'Yes, manifestation!', and at that moment, God heard you and myself and knew that two powerful forces wanted the same thing. Thank you for helping one of my dreams to write for xoNecole come true and I look forward to growing with you and your brand."

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"'Insecure's Premiere Is A Reminder It Might Be Time To Break Up With Your Molly"

"A Peek Inside Tank, The Lover"

"[Exclusive] Justine Skye On How She's Taken Her Journey To Self-Love By The Reins"

"I Said Goodbye To Negative Self-Talk"

"How Black Girl Magic Is Building An Online Community Through TikTok"

Kiara Byrd

Age: 29

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: June 2020-present

Your Most Common Verticals: Inspiration, Workin' Girl, Wellness

"xoNecole means to me that when we come together and empower each other, anything is possible. As a writer, I was lacking inspiration to continue my writing. Because of the xoNecole platform, I have been able to really tell my story and give others space to share their stories too. Watching Necole Kane's story reminded me that, despite the dark days, my story means something. Creating something positive from past experiences is how to gain back your power.

"Manifestation is real. This platform saw my potential in my blogs and gave me a chance to fall in love with writing again. I never considered myself a writer and now I am proud to add this title as a part of who I am. Now I have been able to challenge myself and connect with other writers where we motivate each other to keep our creative juices flowing.

"Necole, you have given me the space to be confident in myself again. I am more than my 9-5 and this platform has allowed me to give life to the creative that has lived inside of me all along."

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"In Order To Evolve, I'm Breaking Up With 'Healing'"

"The 'Pre-Commitment Interview' Every Dating Couple Should Have"

"These Mental Health Advocates Are Empowering Black Men To Take Up Emotional Space"

"Ladies, Here's The Tea On The Best Places To Travel When We Finally Escape Quarantine"

"10 Things Couples Who (Consistently) Have Great Sex Do"

Zoe Hunter

Age: 31

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: 2018-2019

Most Common Verticals: Inspiration & Wellness

"As a woman, xoNecole embodies the many dimensions that accompany our womanhood—so many of us are able to find ourselves in these articles. That's one of the things that keeps me drawn to its content. I find so many different parts of myself on this website and it's beautiful to experience. Similarly, the diversity of perspectives that reflect Black womanhood (and our experience) is beautiful. There is no 'respectability politics' at play here. It is a safe space for us all to exist and be heard. So many of our identities are represented here, and I enjoy that so much for us. xoNecole is a sisterhood, and for me, as a Black woman, that is critical.

"xoNecole gave me my start as a freelance writer. As a blogger that contributed pieces for my own website for so many years, I was always hesitant to call myself a writer. Was I good enough for that title? Did my perspective truly matter to folks outside of my immediate audience? Could I really get paid for this? xoNecole's answer was always yes.

"The site and its editors believed in me since my first submission. Sheriden (the managing editor) saw my worth as a writer before I was ever able to put a price tag on it. Necole made me feel valued both as a woman and a writer. The entire xoNecole team gave me the confidence I needed to consider myself a writer and to pursue other bylines. They gave me a space to share my experiences and perspectives, and to pour into women in ways that I wasn't able to on my own side of the internet. I will always love xoNecole for giving me that opportunity.

"Like many, I started following Necole since NecoleBitchie. Her evolution is wildly inspiring. Watching her exit her former path, to pursue something more meaningful for her...the risks she took in doing so is an unavoidable lesson in purpose. It reminds me to let go of anything that no longer serves me, and to never be afraid to start anew. Necole left everything NecoleBitchie afforded her to step into a fresh calling—and five years later, not only are we celebrating the evolution of this brand (the brand partnerships, the events, the podcast, the community she's cultivated), but we're still celebrating the evolution of Necole as a black creative and entrepreneur. How inspiring!"

"You following your purpose has inspired me in ways that you may not ever recognize. I thank you for sharing your passion with me—with all of us. Thank you for following God's calling on your life. Thank you for taking this risk. Thank you for continually, and intentionally, giving black women a chance. Thank you for honoring, celebrating, and representing the complexities of Black womanhood. Thank you for staying true to this mission. And thank you for pouring so much into yourself, that you're able to overflow unto those you lead. You are a gem!"

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"What Will Smith Taught Me About Setting Expectations"

"Changing The Narrative For Women When It Comes To Love And Dating"

"The Rise Of Hustle Culture & How It Impacts Our Well-Being"

"The Greatest Love Of All, In The Words Of 4 xoNecole Writers"

"For Women Who Feel Like They Have To Constantly Chase What's Next"

Ashley Renee

Age: 32

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: 2016-present

Most Common Verticals: Love & Relationships

"For me, xoNecole is a safe haven for me to express myself, share my thoughts, anecdotes and advice to women around the world. Watching Necole's story unfold has inspired me to never say never, made me want to be more brave and reiterated the fact that it's never too late to start over and life is just a journey, it's up to you to fill it with beautiful experiences.

"Necole you have helped my platform grow, and me grow! The day I got hired as a contributor for xoNecole was the day I decided to quit a job I loathed and have been thriving as a writer ever since. Your journey has been an inspiration to me long before xoNecole and your growth has ignited my fire to keep going! I will always appreciate you for the opportunity and will continue to root for you with every stage you go through."

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"He Told Me He Would Kill Himself If I Left"

"Thank You Ne-Yo: A Letter From A Wife To A Married Man"

"How I Afford To Travel The World Without Breaking Bank"

"August Alsina Speaks On Devotion To Jada Pinkett-Smith: 'I Deeply Loved Her'"

"I Am Not Your Ride Or Die: What We All Can Learn From Keri Hilson"

Shonda White

Age: 38

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: 2015-present

Most Common Verticals: Love/Relationships, Life, Career

"xoNecole helps reassure me that my voice as a Black woman matters. It allows me to be authentically me. The platform allows me to be transparent with other women with the hopes that they, too, will embrace their authenticity, realize they're not alone, and come to know that their feelings and experiences are real and valid. Before I started writing for xoNecole, I wasn't sure if what I had to say was worth saying, let alone something that people wanted to hear. Although I didn't need xoNecole to validate who I was or the gift God gave me, writing for the xoNecole audience and seeing how my words resonated with so many women further confirmed that I had something to say and there were women waiting to hear it.

"Now, more than ever, I trust my voice and the gift that God has given me. I've been empowered because of xoNecole and people like Necole and Sheriden (the managing editor) who helped build my confidence, improve my writing skills, and nurture this gift. To be able to pen and share my stories, as well as the experiences of other incredible Black women, along with many other talented xoTribe writers, is something I do not take lightly. It's more than an opportunity; rather, it's another way for me to be used as a vessel to encourage, empower, and even entertain women.

"I'll never forget when Necole first announced her rebrand, she said: 'If I'm not relevant for the right reasons, I'd rather not be relevant at all.' Nowadays, it's easy to become consumed with being popular, so much so that we miss being purposeful. However, Necole's journey showed me how critical and how rewarding it is to walk and live on purpose - not just for yourself, but for those who are helped and impacted because of it. Watching Necole's journey is a wonderful reminder that purpose is what gives life meaning whether you impact one life, 10 lives, 1,000 lives, or a million. Her journey reminds me to trust the God-given vision within myself even when it doesn't make sense to anyone else.

"Necole's journey makes you really think and ask yourself, 'What am I doing with what God has given me,' and 'Am I using it to help serve others?' Despite everything that she's gone through, her journey is proof that there's power in the pivot, and even though you can't start your life over completely, you can always start a new chapter. Necole has been like a mentor to me, and watching how the site has evolved over the years has truly been a journey. It's a blessing to see how the audience has grown not just in numbers, but emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually because of the stories, expert advice, and experiences shared."

"Personally, I've evolved as a more fearless writer and contributor, and I have even expanded the types of verticals I cover (interviews, events/entertainment, career, etc.). Working with and for Necole has opened up so many doors in ways that I never would've imagined. I proudly wear the xoNecole name as a 'Black girl badge of honor'. I also understand, however, that as the platform continues to grow and as our fearless leader, Necole and her vision continues to grow, I, too, must continue my growth journey. As a contributor, I have a responsibility to help fulfill her vision, while inspiring others to fulfill theirs as well (including myself).

"I'll say this: Necole, please know that the sacrifices you've made and the seeds you've sown (including those unbeknownst to us) have yielded a harvest not just for yourself, but for so many Black women like me. You've given power to our voices. Thank you for giving me a chance, for giving us a platform via your platform, for helping me find purpose through my pain, for teaching me how to trust my voice, and for showing that I am equipped and more than capable of doing extraordinary things."

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"Don't Be A Wife To A Boyfriend: 10 Lessons I Learned When I Was Single"

"What The Ciara's, Cassie's & Karrueche's Of The World Have Shown Us About Moving On & Moving Up"

"What Michelle Obama Taught Us About Becoming More Than Just Somebody's Wife"

"Thank You Beychella: 6 Reassuring Realities Every Woman Should Embrace"

"How Artist Melissa Mitchell Manifested A Groundbreaking Deal With Spanx"

Courtney Simpson

Age: 31

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: "2017, I think. (TBH, it's been a while so not sure exactly when)."

Most Common Verticals: Style/Beauty

"'The world sees you and needs to hear your story' is what xoNecole means to me as a Black woman and a writer. While watching Necole Kane's journey, I saw a woman taking control of her success in a way that I hadn't seen before. The way Necole pivoted in such a transparent way was extremely aspirational to me, especially since I was pivoting myself. By being a part of the xoNecole family, I am inundated in an environment that is challenging, empowering, and supportive. Every step of my career has been helped by the building blocks I've learned at xoNecole.

"Necole, thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to be transparent on your journey. And, thank you for giving me the confidence to do the same. We need more leaders who are committed to leading through honesty and empowerment."

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"#PullUpOrShutUP: Beauty Brands Are Asked To Release Their Numbers Of Black Employees And Execs"

"We Failed Megan. Point Blank And Period."

"Gina Prince-Bythewood On 'The Old Guard' & Creating Space For Black Women In Hollywood"

"How To Use Your Personal Brand To Diversify Your Income"

"The Secret To Leveling Up Your Professional Career"

Shanelle Harris

Age: 26

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: 2017-present

Most Common Vertical(s): xoMan

"As a Black Woman, this site is important and stands out from the rest because it's a space solely and unapologetically dedicated to Black Women. It's a space that evolves as we evolve, as I evolve. With every passing year, my interests and needs change and xoNecole always has content that meets me where I'm at and where I'm going. As a writer, this site gives honest, relevant persepctives from women who look like me and with whom I feel aligned with. It's a safe space to tell our stories, amplify our voices with no reservations or apologies.

"Necole's journey is a reminder that it's OK to walk away from anything that doesnt serve you holistically. Black women are multi-faceted creatures and it's important to surround ourselves in places and with things that help develop, magnify, and celebrate all of that. Necole's journey is also a reminder that people don't have to be onboard with your decision to grow in order for you to evolve. You don't need a cosign, permission, or backing to follow your calling. And that's on period!"

"On a personal level, Necole has always seen and believed in my potential from the very first article I ever wrote. She's consistently been there to provide honest feedback and insight into things when I didn't really understand. She's never been shy about helping me improve and has allowed me the space and extended the grace to evolve alongside her and the xoNecole brand. For that, I'll forever be grateful.

"If I could summarize what Necole means to me in one sentiment, it would be overwhelming gratitude. You see things in people that they sometimes don't rightly see in themselves, never lose that. You are kind, you're a light, and you're dedicated. Never change for anything or anyone, the world needs what you have."

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"Jada Pinkett Smith Wants You To Chill With The Negative Self-Talk"

"Tracee Ellis Ross Breaks Down Her Iconic Style"

"Luke James On Love, Intimacy & Who He Is As A Lover"

"A Peak Inside Tank, The Lover"

"Why I Stopped Answering The Body Count Question"

Dayana Preval

Courtesy of Dayana Preval

Age: 27

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: December 2019-present

Most Common Verticals: "I live in the Life & Travel section. I'm all about sharing personal stories and motivating the next woman."

"xoNecole means so much to me because as a Black woman, I feel seen. I love that xoNecole doesn't limit the narrative and the beauty of Black women. I don't have to fit into the box that society wants Black women to fit in so badly. xoNecole also helped with my courage to tap into my own voice as a writer. It's beautiful to see how women are healing and relating to my content because I decided to be vulnerable and in return, I get to help others. There's no better feeling than knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of black women with my words. I'm so grateful to be a part of this sisterhood.

"Necole is the perfect example of going all in and following your heart. Necole has helped me to realize that I'm not crazy for following my own dream. To see Necole being the Black woman she is and accomplishing what she has is admirable. It's a reminder that it's OK to go all in and invest in myself. I get the pleasure to chat with Necole often and I've learned so much about from her about gratitude, putting people first, and more. Working for xoNecole has been a blessing in many ways. It's challenged me to continuously find new ways to connect with Black women. It's also been a saving grace because, for the first time, I'm experiencing a work culture that I truly enjoy.

"Necole is such a beautiful and genuine soul. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Necole personally and I'm so grateful. Necole has so much knowledge and life experience and you can tell she's passionate about people. Her energy is so pure and loving. Her level of transparency makes it very easy to love her because she's not judgemental and she cares. Necole has made such a positive impact for Black women in media. I'm so excited to see how she continues to grow."

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"Here's What's Blocking You From Manifesting"

"How To Maintain Your Mental Health & Sustain Healthy Friendships At The Same Time"

"From Dropout To Self-Made Entreprenuer, Pauleanna Reid Paved A Lane All Her Own"

"How To Practice Social Media Self-Care & Keep Your Peace"

"Are You Good Sis? We Need To Discuss Black Women & Suicide"

Amer-Marie Woods

Age: 34

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: 2019-present

Most Common Verticals: Travel, Life & Travel, Politics

"Honestly, the xoNecole brand has been extremely instrumental in amplifying my voice at a time when I was going through a major life transition. xoNecole provided me a space to redefine how I use that new voice to impact other women. Especially Black women. There are very few internet publications that allow Black women to tell multidimensional stories but xoNecole created a safe space for our authenticity. This is a brand that celebrates and uplifts the unique excellence that is Black women. I couldn't be more grateful for an opportunity to be a new writer, podcast host and content creator while being embraced by the xoNecole tribe.

"What sticks out most to me is not necessarily the pivot but the rebuild. People always praise the pivot but they don't give the rebuild the respect it deserves. It takes a lot of patience to rebuild something from the ground up and even more to become successful. Doing it twice is unimaginable. So the biggest lesson I learned from Necole's journey is how to have tenacity and perseverance. Anyone can change directions but it takes a leader to be able to drive an entire company to the next level. That requires an extreme sense of self and confidence that most people lack. Watching it in real time grow to a success is a lesson you can't learn anywhere else. It gives me the confidence to go out and conquer the ideas that I think are the wildest knowing that another woman who looks like me and is like me has already done it successfully."

"My work on the platform has transformed from writing travel content to political journalism to podcasting. These are absolutely opportunities that no one else would have offered me, especially being new to media. Necole had the foresight and vision to see what I was not able to see in myself. She empowered me to be able to create the work that I was not sure I was capable of doing. Being new to anything can be a scary journey, Necole made sure that I was uplifted and supported. This ultimately gave me the confidence I needed to continue develop. That in itself is invaluable. There are a lot of people who are scared to share the knowledge they have in fear that someone else may take what they have created. Necole exudes leadership in a very different way by giving those around her an opportunity to shine."

"Necole, you are probably one of the strongest people I know. You have lived a lot of life and you have navigated it fiercely. There were so many things that were stacked against you and you could have easily given up on your dreams. However, you wanted so much more for yourself and you went after it fearlessly. You have inspired so many women to be authentically themselves and chase after the things that scare them the most. Thank you for sharing that gift with so many of us. You have a very big heart and an incredibly kind spirit that is uncommon to find in most people. There is no telling how many lives you have saved, how many hearts and minds you have touched but thank you for doing this work. Thank you for using your voice, thank you for being an inspiration, thank you for being you, and thank you for being my friend. Cheers lady, you deserve it!"

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"I don't have any favorite articles, I enjoy the content as a whole body of work. Each piece is a vibe that I need to celebrate myself and the women around me who mean the most."

Jamie Harrison

Age: 31

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: May 2019 - present

Most Common Verticals: Love & Relationships and Career

"Growing up, I always aspired to write for a publication that caters to Black women. Representation is very important for women of color and xoNecole celebrates the sheer essence of Black women. xoNecole shines a light, unlike any other, on the beauty, the class and the versatility of the Black woman. I appreciate being able to contribute to this site and I thoroughly enjoy reading articles from other writers!

"Learning about Necole's strength, resilience and tenacity inspires me as a creator and a Black woman. It shows that you can do anything that you put your mind to! I'm grateful that Necole has created a safe and welcoming space for me and other Black women. As a content creator, it's refreshing to have a platform where Black women can be their true selves – and I'm even more grateful to be a part of that!

"Even though I haven't met Necole personally, I love her focus on hard work, determination and mental wellness. Her remarkable journey of rebuilding and rebranding motivates me to continue striving for my goals, put faith over fear and to shoot for the stars – even if I'm a little scared!"

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"xoNecole Founder Necole Kane On How Bodybuilding Helped Her Battle Depression"

"What We Tend To Get Wrong About Finding Mr. Right"

"The Fundamentals Of Self-Care When You're Young, Black & Woke"

"Eating Well: 10 Foods That Can Improve Your Mental Health"

"I Got A Sugar Wax & The Results Had Me Shook"

Sheriden Chanel

Age: 29

Time Spent Writing for xoNecole: "2015 - present. I write very occassionally now since transitioning from writer to managing editor but I'm always happy to get in where I fit in."

Most Common Verticals: Love & Relationships, Sex, I Tried It

"I remember exactly where I was 5 years ago when I first received an email from Necole Kane. As a fan of celebrity gossip and the infamous comment section, Necole Bitchie was a constant read for me, so to receive an email from Necole in my inbox was the life-affirming message that I needed from God and the Universe that this is what I've been put on this earth to do. To pen evolved from a passion into my purpose and a lot of that is thanks to her and her decision to take a chance on me in the midst of her taking one of the biggest chances of her life, starting over from scratch and building an empire that she didn't tolerate for the money and the fame, but something that too spoke to her purpose. xoNecole has been a blessing, a refuge, a gift, a solace, an inspiration, my heartbeat, and a lifeline. It has singlehandedly acted as the catalyst to some of my wildest dreams.

"What's more than a dream fully realized is that xoNecole has helped me tap into a sense of community I had no idea I needed, a sisterhood that showed me that I'm not alone. It is a platform that challenged and continues to challenge the monolithic view of Black women the world will have you believe. We are multidimensional, multilayered, multiifacted and powerful AF and xoNecole speaks to those women every day as a lifestyle platform that shows us we are worthy to hear these types of stories, write these types of stories, and be seen through these types of stories. It's OK because we are more."

"Necole's journey is one that I've had the pleasure of being closer to than most and it has been a thing of beauty to see the way that she has come into her own as a businesswoman sure, but also an unapologetic force who stands true to leading a life that she is excited about. Work plays into that and so does her success, and so does the evolution of her from NecoleBitchie to Necole Kane; but personally the thing that inspires me most is how passionate she is about cultivating happiness and what that means for herself. It's been an honor and a privilege to see the brand flourish and as a result to see her flourish and come into her own as a woman who pours into herself as often as she seeks to pour into other women. That love that I've been able to witness her giving so freely to others by way of events, talks, platforms, newsletters, apps, and the xoNecole brand as a whole, is the love that she is also giving herself. That has been motivating and inspiring beyond measure and I am so proud that after years of prioritizing other things, she's starting to say, 'It's time to give a little of that to me.'

"I express my gratitude for you all the time Necole. Today and every day, rest and stand proudly in the fact that you have done the things you set out to do. You have been the change you wish to see. You inspire and drive other women to strive through the unyielding bravery you've had in times where you could have been afraid to seek to find answers to the questions others might have feared to ask. You are doing God's work in the way that you touch others and empower them to own the fullness of their voices to uplift the next woman. Your authenticity and transparency inspires our authenticity and transparency. I know that can also be a lot of pressure but know that you are already worthy simply by being. Keep going and glowing, Queen. You deserve all the wins and more, holistically. Thank you once again today, and every day. I love you, we all love you!"

Top 5 Favorite Articles:

"Serial Entrepreneur Shanicia Boswell Needs You To Know That Every Loss Is An Opportunity To Level Up"

"Why Are Women Accepting Bare Minimum As Bae-Material?"

"5 Women On The Truth About Living Alone"

"We Talked To Over 20 Men About The Things They Like In Bed But Won't Ask For & Whew Chile..."

"Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members"

Featured image via Ashleigh Hardin-Jones

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You know, love is a funny, funny thing. I once read that 90 percent of it is based on the friendship developed by the two of you, and only 10 percent is actually based on love. And oftentimes, your marriage will boil down to the work put into maintaining and nurturing that 90 percent. Ain't that sumthin?

That's why when I see couples who have been married for many years, especially those in the public eye, I take every opportunity to celebrate their union with them. After all, love fades, and it can even vary from day-to-day. Friendship is the basis of all of this, it's the foundation.

And one duo who certainly understands this assignment is our dear faves, Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker. They have spent much of their marriage genuinely loving on each other and helping other couples along the way just by being themselves. From revealing the infamous "prayer", to showing the importance of the little things; things like date nights, or complimenting your partner openly and unapologetically.

Most recently, Boris took to Instagram to swoon over his wife in the cutest way. Shared with a screenshot from FaceTime, he asks:

"Hey Babe, can I ask you something? Can you please keep shining your light on me? Like 20,30,40 more years maybe? Feels really good. Thank you. I love you."

To which Parker responded:

"I'm gonna shave my legs. to. night. #yourenotreadyyyy"

It's the hashtags fa me.

Then there was that time that he was checking her out, and complimenting her fitness, which, *swoon*:

There's the time he surprised her on a boat and copped a few feels:

Same.

When she celebrated his latest venture as his number one fan:

When they celebrated their anniversary with a few locals and dance in the city:

All while jamming to some, which is always a vibe.

And when Boris showed her infinite love on International Women's Day:

The lovers and friends pair have said before that their relationship is not different from anyone else's and that that they have simply taken the time to do what works for them, which is having fun. Nicole even addressed it directly, offering advice by saying:

"You become better people on the other side. Everyone wants to run if you have one argument, one misstep or one mistake. But if you commit to going through the desert, so to speak, it's so good on the other side. And Number 2: treat him like your boyfriend. Because in marriage, you get into a practical rut. It's nothing new. Don't panic. You're going to get in a practical rut about who is doing what, paying bills, sharing the house, two different jobs, then the children. You become roommates."

She continues:

"But if you remember that this person is your boo [laughs], you keep it fun. You can't wait to get home, even if 10 years have gone by. You can't wait to buy him a gift for no reason on your way home from work. He gets you flowers for no reason. So, I always say, the minute you find your husband, make him your boyfriend."

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image via Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

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Make things inbox official.

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks about love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

When the pandemic hit, it really changed the way we connected with one another. While yes, social media has always been around, it has never been relied on as much as it is now. Especially within the last year. Social media became instrumental in building relationships as it continues to be a main source in making new friends, business partners, and, of course love interests. I mean, when it comes to love interests we are all familiar with the swipe left, swipe right, and the DM slide. But it is much more special when social media is actually the motivator for you to fly out and meet the woman of your dreams, who lives almost 1,000 miles away.

A simple scroll and a nice charming smile is what caught Andrea Fernandes' eye to really see what Jibre Hordges was all about. The 25- and 27-year-old were able to connect and after a couple of weeks of text messages and phone calls, the now-couple decided that distance or a pandemic was not going to hold them back. Andrea mentions, "I felt like time flew by when we were together. When we met in-person, we were able to talk for hours and hours."

The couple made it official in June 2020. Since their initial meeting online, Andrea and Jibre have been positive influences in each other's lives. They have been complementing each other's strengths and challenging each other's areas of improvement. They support each other through their own individual journeys of growth and never losing sight of faith. While Andrea and Jibre are still in a long-distance relationship, they are dedicated to spending that quality time together. For these two, they are only one call and a flight away.

In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, the publicist and actor shares how their love continues to grow by honest communication, speaking each other's love languages, and keeping God as a shared value.

How We Met

Andrea: I was scrolling through Instagram one day and I came across Jibre's page. I saw that one of my friends followed him too. So I sent his photo to my friend and asked, "Who is this man?" (laughs) I will say that if it wasn't for my friend also following him, I probably wouldn't have tried to connect with him. After some time, I decided to reply to one of his IG stories. This is something I have never done to a guy, I honestly don't know. But I liked his teeth, so I decided to give it a shot (laughs).

Jibre: After our mutual friend told Andrea who I was, we started following each other. We followed each other for about two weeks before we even said anything to each other. I lowkey had my eye on her, but it's all about timing. Since she reached out to me when I was already planning to reach out to her, I thought, Say less, let's do it (laughs). When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her.

"When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

First Impressions

Jibre: From talking those few weeks, I already knew that I liked her. But when I met her in-person, I immediately thought she was beautiful. We talked to each other for hours and just picked each other's brain. Her brain is definitely a reflection of her beauty.

Andrea: I thought he was very nice. Overall, he exceeded my expectations. I felt like time just flew by when we were together. We actually had dinner reservations that night, but ended up skipping it because we continued to just talk and get to know each other more. The chemistry between us was there from the start.

Courtship

Jibre: So after we met, I flew out a couple of more times to hang out with her. But after the second time we hung out, Andrea was honestly a little skeptical about moving forward with us. Initially, I was down for it. I was thinking about her all the time. I was calling her, texting her, and telling my friends about her. But she was trying to ghost me the whole time (laughs).

Andrea: I know I am in the hot seat now (laughs). But yes, I was definitely second-guessing myself. I felt that I was moving kind of fast with him and it honestly scared me. I was coming into the year where I was focusing on myself and self-love. So even though I did like him, I thought maybe I like him a little too much (laughs). So I tried to distance myself from him. My thinking behind it was, I would rather save myself now before I fall too deep and there's no turning back. But it wasn't until one day I was with my mom and she saw me ignoring his calls. She was the one who told me to answer and I listened (laughs).

Jibre: I didn't know that was how she felt. It really caught me by surprise because I thought things were going well. But thankfully, I was persistent.

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Making Things Official

Andrea: So a month later, I invited him on a group trip with my friends. That was when I could picture myself being with him. The way he put in the effort to actually make it to the trip meant a lot. It was a little challenging, but he was dedicated to making it happen. My friends also loved him, so that was a plus (smiles).

Jibre: It was around the same time for me too. When we met, she mentioned that she mainly focuses on herself and self-love. So when I started seeing changes where she was including me in her life, it made me feel like she was choosing me to stick around. At first, I was thinking about making things official on Valentine's Day. But even though it didn't happen right then, the weekend with her friends was a huge weekend for the both of us.

The "L" Word

Jibre: We were having a lot of difficulties starting out. For one thing, I am a Gemini and she is a Taurus. And if you know about astrology, Tauruses can be some tough cookies. I was getting that stubborn side of her and we clashed a lot. Some people would agree that when you keep clashing, it's easier to walk away. But as time went on, any time I felt I wanted to walk away, I just couldn't. My heart would keep telling me to stay and make it work. It had been years since I had been in love. So I knew this had to be real love because I didn't want to be with anyone else.

Andrea: We did conflict quite a bit in the beginning. I always told him that we would clash over our differences and our similarities. It was tough. I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, "I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else." It's so true with him and I just love him.

"I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, 'I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else.' It's so true with him and I just love him."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Favorite Things

Andrea: My favorite thing about him is also the main thing I complain about the most (laughs). Jibre is kind of a neat freak. I jokingly make fun of him all the time for it. But his organization actually pushes me to be more organized in my life. So I don't think he knows how much of a positive influence that has been for me.

Jibre: My favorite thing about Andrea is that she genuinely wants me to be a better person. She is willing to tell me the things that other people won't tell me. Like the things that I don't want to hear, but I need to hear. I can really appreciate that because it just means she wants me to be the best version of myself.

Early Challenges

Andrea: I grew up an only child. So I was always focused on myself, even if I was in a relationship. When Jibre and I got together, I struggled a little with providing what he needed from me. I am a huge advocate for self-love. But I am learning now that I can balance loving myself and prioritizing him as well in my life. Jibre and I worked together on what I could do more of to show that I am still considering him, while I still work towards my personal goals.

Jibre: In conflict, I have noticed that when I get angry or emotional, I tend to just react and not think things through. I have learned that sometimes in a relationship, you have to look at yourself and give yourself grace. You have to know yourself enough to be honest and hold yourself accountable when you may be wrong. We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple.

"We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Love Languages

Andrea: I still tell Jibre that I think he changed my love language. At first, when I took the test, all the areas were even (laughs). So I figured, I guess I need all of them (laughs). But when you truly love someone, you want to be loved in a different way by that person. So when I took the test again, it showed I value physical touch and words of affirmation more than the other areas.

Jibre: My number one is physical touch. Growing up, my mom was very affectionate with me. So that stuck with me as I got older and now I am a very affectionate person. My number two was quality time, but while being with Andrea, it has grown into acts of service. At the end of the day, we make sure we give each other the entire spectrum.

Love Lessons

Jibre: Man, love is so complex. But true love wins every time. Being in a relationship has definitely taught me that you have to be patient with your partner. It's important that we are still learning from each other and with that you have to have patience through each other's growth. God is also the center in everything we do. So keeping him as a foundation in our relationship is very important to us.

Andrea: Keeping our faith is definitely something we share. I think another thing that has been an important lesson is a sense of understanding who your partner is. To really get out of your head sometimes and put yourself in your partner's shoes. Like how something I do may make him feel and vice versa. People can be really set in their own ways. But if you make it a point to understand your partner's point of view on things, it is really essential.

For more of Andrea and Jibre, follow them on Instagram @drea.lisanna, @jibrehordges, and @jibreandrea.

Featured image courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

In a move that makes us so happy, the ever-so-stunning Ryan Destiny has been making her rounds lately, showing off her subtle but enamoring vibe in recent appearances with Vogue, HelloBeautiful, and even Doja Cat's new "Need to Know" music video. The former Star actress and singer also took a moment to join Harper Baazar for their 'Go to Bed With Me' segment, a video series where various celebs show off their nighttime skincare routines.

This appearance was our absolute fave because to see her demonstrating how to maintain her beautifully radiant skin is something we all want to know, right?! Right. So, sis...we gotchu just in time for summer!

Here a guide on how to achieve Ryan Destiny's poppin and oh so melanated skin:

What you'll need:

La Mer The Cleansing Oil ($95)

Black Opal Blemish Control Bar ($6.50)

Black Opal Lip Oil ($6.25)

CosMedix Clarity Serum ($42, or $35 with subscription)

Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum ($14.95)

​Harper’s Bazaar/YouTube

Rocking a blow-out for the gawds, after a cute intro, Ryan opens with this one simple, but loud, tip:

"Wash your hands. Wash your hands before you start anything."

She then proceeds to use the La Mer Cleansing oil and thoroughly massages the product all over her face and neck. Get in there good ladies, this step is important!

"Rub it all over my face, get down on my neck. And once I feel that it's all broken down, I am going to rinse."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Next up, Ryan focuses on a problem area that many of us have: hyperpigmentation. To combat this, she uses the Black Opal Blemish Control Bar, a brand she has used since she was 16 years old. She is also the face of the brand, which is Black woman-owned.

"What's really really great for the hyperpigmentation that I sort of have a lot of right now, is the . It's like extra, extra important to me to take of all of the makeup before you go to bed. It just makes such a difference. It's the worst when you go to sleep with your makeup still on, and you just know it just sets you back like a whole week."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Destiny then moves on to hydrating her lips with the Black Opal Lip Oil.

"I kinda sorta sorta kinda kinda have chapped lips. But not anymore becuase I did a lot of trial and error, and I found something that works for me. It works with my makeup as well. It nourishes and hydrates my lips, it's not there to just look pretty, you know."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

As a final step, she moves on to her serums for pigmented skin and dark spots. Here she uses the CosMedix Clarity Serum and Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum.

"This is also really great for prepping your makeup. I use this serum right before I start doing my makeup. It like, glides right on and helps my makeup look better and apply on my skin better."

We stan a simple but effective routine, sis!

Watch the full video below:

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

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A year before my dad died (which was seven years ago), he and I had a series of conversations about my relatives on his side—and his marriage to my mother. Some things I already knew. Some things I was waiting to connect some dots on. Some things flat-out surprised me—and totally disgusted me. I would give some details; however, while I am certainly an open book, I still want to be careful with how much I share about all three points because 1) a lot of people in my family aren't even close to being as candid (or shoot even honest); 2) I'm not writing this in order to "put people on blast"; and 3) interestingly enough, choosing to separate myself from certain family members is what's helped me to be less pissed and more gracious. Gracious about what? How I'm going to address why I don't involve myself with certain family members anymore. On both sides of my DNA.

I know that family estrangement is still a really radical concept to some people. Still, I totally mean it when I say that you oftentimes don't realize just how much you are only further traumatizing yourself and hindering your growth as an individual by still intimately involving yourself with your relatives…only for the simple fact that they are your relatives. After all, you know what they say—all skinfolk ain't kinfolk and chile, when it comes to healing and thriving as an individual, I sometimes believe that no truer words have been spoken.

On the open tip, what I will say is I'm a survivor of almost every type of abuse you can imagine, including neglect. Neglect from many members of my family too. At the same time, I think it's important to state that it wasn't the kind of abuse that happened every day. In fact, the running statement I make in interviews is what my family did well, it was "A level." Problem is, there really wasn't anything between an "A" and an "F". Either what they did was really great or it sucked and was the lowest of the low. BIG TIME. And because I really believe that I am a generational curse breaker, in order to truly break so many of the patterns and cycles, I had to get away from the classic definition of insanity—doing the same thing while expecting a different result. And yes, that included leaving certain relatives behind. Definitely for now. Possibly forever.

That's what we're going to tackle today. Whether you are currently estranged from a relative—or like a close friend of mine, an entire side of your family—or you're contemplating if that's something you should do for your overall ultimate health and well-being, I'm going to share with you, from very personal experience, why that is absolutely nothing to feel shame, guilt or embarrassment about. Now take a deep breath. You ready?

If ANYONE Should Be Your Safe Place, It’s Your Family

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

It might sound crazy to say that there are benefits from estrangement yet, there are. Trust me. When it comes to mine, one of the things that a lot of my tribe says is, although I'm "Shellie" and gonna always be "Shellie" (LOL), removing myself from toxic family members has caused me to be a lot calmer overall. I agree. Back when I was still involving myself in the cyclic BS, I used to feel so out of control and somewhat intimidated by certain relatives. Leaving them alone caused me to feel more in control which caused me to not want to control everyone and everything else. And I definitely wouldn't have discovered that without fully separating myself.

This brings me to my first point. There is a particular toxic relative who I realize caused me to pick female friends who were very similar to them—beautiful, talented, manipulative, selfish and emotionally unstable. I would pick these kinds of women over and over and over again because that relative had a strong influence in my life. Once I unraveled myself from that person, though, I realized I kept choosing unhealthy friends because I didn't know what healthy looked like. And one thing that healthy is? It's safe.

Safe is a big deal to me (check out "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members"). It means that I'm protected. It means that I'm not subject to being hurt or harmed. It means that I'm in an environment or dynamic that is at little risk for pain or drama. Y'all, for some of us, the most unsafe individuals are our family members. That's why I'm the kind of person who actually gets pretty pissed off when people say that you shouldn't distance yourself from family members just because they're related to you.

What the hell are y'all talking about? If you've got relatives who are constantly putting you in harm's way—do you get that the last people who should be doing that are them? So, if they are the ones who are unsafe for you, at the very least, take a season to take care of yourself, because all they will keep doing is taking advantage of your vulnerability and, if you've got any (which isn't uncommon), even your feelings of fear.

Only Boundary-Violators Have a Problem with Boundaries

When I first decided to remove myself from all of the familiar crap, there was one person in particular who confirmed, LOUD AND CLEAR, exactly why I needed to do it in the first place. They showed up at my house unannounced (and uninvited; after I made it clear to them that they weren't welcome). They tried to dictate how I should conduct myself within my own space (remember y'all, I'm in my 40s). They sent other boundary-violators my way; people who had hurt me tremendously while growing up. WTF? Oh, I was pissed. I'm still a little triggered just thinking about it.

After getting still and reflecting, I realized that they were doing what they had always done—not respected my space. Or feelings. Or needs. They weren't going to change. I had to. This is actually one of the reasons why I am so "pro-estrangement"—again, at least for a season—if you've got toxic relatives in your life. It's so you can get quiet and still enough to ponder and process what the hell is actually going on, because sometimes stuff is so chaotic that you can't get a grasp of what is truly causing or triggering it.

Oh, but when you step out from this ish, I promise you that a part of what you'll realize is that the people who really and truly love you, they are going to honor your boundaries. They won't demand that you break them for their benefit. They won't dismiss them as if they are irrelevant. They won't try and talk you out of them. Even if they don't fully understand what is going on, they are going to respect your limits because what healthy people know is love and respect work hand in hand. Sis, no one truly loves you—family or not—if they don't respect you. And respect means accepting your boundaries. Simply because you set them.

Sometimes Forgiveness Means Removing Yourself from Being Tempted to Not Forgive

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

I strive to be a Bible follower. And so, I am well aware of the fact that the Bible says that in order for God to forgive us, we must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). This is why I don't cosign with people who think that you shouldn't forgive others. NO ONE is worth me being in an unstable place with my Creator. At the same time, again, the Bible says that in order to be right with the Lord, we must forgive. It does not say that when people abuse/mistreat/constantly offend us that we need to act like those things never happened or that we should remain in their hamster wheel of drama.

That's why, it is truly my belief that, in order for reconciliation to transpire (something else that the Bible also speaks of—2 Corinthians 5:17-19), not only does the victim need to forgive, the victimizer needs to repent as well. For the record, repentance isn't just about saying "I'm sorry." It's about making an amends too. It's about being proactive and intentional about righting the wrongs. Yeah, that sermon isn't preached nearly enough.

That's why this point is phrased in the way that it is. There are some people in my family who, whether it's intentional or unintentional, they just constantly cause harm and pain. Will they apologize? Sometimes. Well, they do that justification-not-taking-full-responsibility kind of apologizing (which isn't much of one). Yet my issue is they will do that, only to commit the same offense, on some level, not soon after.

Again, I know that the Bible says that I must forgive which is another reason why there is distance. It's because, since you're gonna keep "slapping me" (so to speak) and it's getting harder and harder to forgive you for it, how about I acknowledge just how broken you really are in that area and 1) give you nothing to slap and 2) pull myself out of the position where it's getting harder and harder to forgive you when you do it? It's not a common way of thinking yet it's been a very freeing one for me. Straight up.

When People Didn’t Love You Well, Please Make Sure That You Do

The last guy that I loved? It's funny that the moment that I removed myself from certain family members, the less appealing he became. In hindsight, I realized that he was just as smart, funny, creative, charming and interesting as they were. He was also just as unstable, manipulative, gaslighting, narcissistic and selfish as they were too. On some levels, I loved him because "thanks" to those relatives' example of love, I thought that is what love looked like. Ugh. I'm not saying all of this to demonize ole' boy. I know a lot about his own family dynamic and he honestly could stand to take some time off them from them too. Yet that's not my issue or problem.

What estrangement has done for me is driven home the point that, rather than spending (or is it wasting?) time trying to get toxic family members (or toxic men) to love me in the way that I deserve to be loved, it's better to distance myself and discover how to redefine love and then love myself better. That way, I can cultivate a new standard and therefore prevent myself from getting into relationships/friendships with individuals who do nothing more than mirror the family drama and dysfunction that I had gotten so accustomed to for so many years.

Another benefit of estrangement is you're not imprisoned by what you thought love looked like. You can get the time and space to free yourself up enough to understand just how warm, comforting, beneficial, encouraging and consistent real love actually is.

Guilt Is Typically Placed on Us. By Toxic People.

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OK, so let me hit on the guilt that you might be feeling regarding being estranged right now. Honestly, this could be a book all unto itself because a lot of people who struggle with guilt? It's oftentimes because they were surrounded by manipulative people some/most/all of their lives. Manipulative folks 1) don't like to take accountability for their actions; 2) get off on using puppet strings to try and control people's thoughts, actions and emotions, and 3) they are the kings and queens of deflection; if they can make you feel bad for what they've done, they will do it. Every time.

As a direct result, when you make the decision to distance yourself from them, you already know what they're gonna do, right? Guilt trip you (or send someone your way to do their dirty work for them). Before you know it, you find yourself having a hard time sleeping; you're feeling anxious; you're not trusting your own judgment; you're being indecisive; you're feeling like you have to defend/explain/apologize for everything—I could go on and on about what guilt looks like. My main point in bringing this up is, as you're reading this, I hope you can see how a lot of the guilt you may feel now is because, when it comes to the people you are distancing yourself from, you've probably always felt it. Take it up a notch and it's also why you've always stayed in the toxic pattern with them. Guilt has been overpowering you. It's time to let it go.

Listen, while I'm all about feeling remorseful when necessary, guilt is not the same thing. Not only that but very rarely does guilt do any of us any good. All it does is give us distressful feelings. Ones that, more times than not, cause us to either make poor decisions or ones that don't really make us a priority in the long run.

If you're tempted to feel guilty about the decision you've made to let some family members go (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"), do some self-love journaling so that you can remind yourself why you made the decision in the first place. Then jot down some areas where you've improved since making the shift. Some of us constantly feel guilty for choosing us because we've never done it before. Loving on you, healing you, figuring out who and what are truly best for you? That is NOTHING to feel guilty about. Remove yourself from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Straight up.

Let (Internal) Peace Be Your Guide

Listen, the older—and hopefully wiser and more mature—that you get, the more you want peace in your life. LAWD. Yeah, something that my mother used to say is I was violent about my own peace and development. Looking back, that's one of the best things she's ever said to me because when you are at peace—I mean the Hebrew word for peace is shalom which means things like whole and complete—there is nothing like it. Once you achieve it, you get to a point and place that any person, place, thing or idea that hinders it (especially on a constant basis) is something that you need to keep your distance from.

Life comes with so many challenges, simply because that is how life is. Yet if yours seems to be in constant upheavals, step back and think about if your family has anything to do with it. If you can name at least five reasons why the answer is "yes"—at the very least, establish firm and unapologetic boundaries. Or, if like in my case, either things are so unhealthy and/or they keep violating your limits, removing them from your life, as a consequence of their destructive behavior, is nothing to feel bad about.

Miss them? I get it. Wish things were different? I totally understand. Sacrifice your peace just to stay in chaos and drama? It's really not worth it. No one said that estrangement had to be forever. It really kind of depends on how well you heal and how much the people who hurt/harmed you have changed during the time apart. Yet if you know your family is infecting your life, please take care of you.

That way, you can spend less time in their drama and more time living the life you never thought was possible…until you removed yourself from their mess. Again, I am a living testimony of this. Peace personified. Finally.

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