Seven seconds. That’s all the time needed for the average person to assess your personal brand, according to Dawn Thibodeaux, branding and mindset coach.
“Now, whether they are right or wrong, the package that you’re showing up with is what they are going to see.”
Her philosophy and book, “The Power of Clothing & Personal Packaging”, centers around a trifecta: once you change your mind and clothes, you change your life. Thibodeaux says she sees Black women being victims to clothing, which negatively impacts their work performance and keeps them from promotions.
“They’re getting dressed thinking one thing—that what they’re wearing is sending a particular message when, unfortunately, it’s not.”
Thibodeaux finds that some women think their co-workers are envious of their style or clothing choices when, in reality, they are being mocked.
“There’s a balance. So, while you want to be who you are, you also want to be aware of the environment that you’re walking into.”
One aspect of Black women’s style she admires is the critical role color plays in wardrobe choices. However, she says it’s important to choose colors that make sense for the environment.
She believes it is important for Black women to have honest advocates in their lives who tell them the truth about the personal brand they’re projecting. She explains that it’s imperative to know your body type and when certain articles of clothing are appropriate to wear.
“One would say if you went into a construction zone wearing a tutu, I don’t think you’ll be taken seriously.”
Thibodeaux says respect is fundamental for clothing choices in various spaces.
“Respecting yourself in a way that you can bring your personality to that particular event in a way that also respects the people you are going to be interacting with.”
She tells her clients that to achieve the life they want, they should choose the best clothing they can afford, use a tailor to get the right fit and ignore the numbers that correspond with size. She says that once the trifecta is achieved, Black women gain the power and confidence needed to have the life they desire.
“By doing that, then they are changing the dollar signs on their paychecks, and when that happens, that gives them the opportunity to put their children in different schools and ultimately change the legacy of their families.”
Fighting to be seen is commonplace with Black women in the workplace, who often feel invisible. Many learn that with colleagues, perception is reality, and it can negatively impact the trajectory of your career. When the office is the city of Orlando on national TV with millions of viewers, navigating the effects of negative perceptions may be less about being seen and more about being understood.
San Diego native Danielle Miller, a 30-year-old entrepreneur and reality TV Star of “Basketball Wives: Orlando”, knows all too well how others’ views in the workplace, especially when they differ from personal truth, may cause you to fight – both literally and figuratively – to protect your story. “Basketball Wives: Orlando” is the No. 1 most watched social reality series on cable in terms of total interactions, according to Yahoo! Finance. Despite the show’s success, since its debut on Oct. 9, Danielle has received sharp criticism from some of her cast-mate colleagues. Labeled a “mean girl”, a term that makes her seethe, she shared on IG Live that she believes the show’s editing deliberately portrays her that way because sensationalism sells.
However, Danielle doesn’t seem to need a gimmick to draw attention. At 5’8’’ with deep dark-brown skin, athletic curves and legs for days, she stands out. On the phone, she is the same as she appears on-screen—direct, funny, confident and endearing. Watching her on the show she’s calculated, determined and a little guarded when she enters a room – a demeanor she may have developed from years of going against some of the best players in college basketball and then overseas.
In 2015, she played professional basketball in the Euroleague system at SIAULIAI-UNIVERSITETAS in Lithuania, where she led her team to score. Previously, as a guard at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV), she was known as a top defender in the Mountain West. That label, defender, continues to follow her on “Basketball Wives: Orlando”, where she finds herself in constant battle – verbally and physically – with her cast-mates over her past relationship, office gossip and the honor of her friends. What she sees as guarding her post, others may view as defensive.
While viewers will get to know her from the storyline about a severed 10-year relationship with her ex-fiancé and their tumultuous breakup, when she talks about herself the focus is on personal and professional accomplishments. Outside of her career in basketball, Danielle’s highlight reel shows her master’s degree in criminal justice, her most recent executive positions in the non-profit sector and being a mom to two beautiful kids.
“It’s crazy because I was in the delivery room giving birth to my daughter, taking my final to finish my master’s degree. Yes, and he thought I was crazy, but I’m like, I couldn’t not get it done, so I was like, ‘I’ve got to do this.’ It was important for me, while he was playing in the NBA, to always maintain my own career.”
In Minnesota, where her ex is from, she was committed to helping reduce recidivism and was focused on providing criminal offenders a chance to return to their lives with the support they need. A role that came with unique drama and stark realities, but Danielle thrived in that environment.
“I was pretty much helping people become well-rounded individuals and law-abiding in a way that promotes a more healthy and safe Black community.”
Danielle found her footing, a promising career, a group of friends and meaningful contacts in the fight for justice that helped her grow as a professional and a member of the Minneapolis community. However, when her relationship took a turn, she packed up her children and moved back to the life she knew in San Diego, where she could get the support she needed to heal and rebuild.
According to Danielle, during a relationship counseling session, her then-fiancé revealed that he was no longer interested in a monogamous relationship, saying that lifestyle never appealed to him, and he wanted multiple partners.
This was news to Danielle, who put her WNBA dreams on hold to support his NBA career, had two children and was planning to spend her life with him.
“I was like, I have a choice here, and I am actually going to move back home to San Diego so you can live in this non-monogamous world, and I will live over here.”
Moving away was a hard blow to Danielle, whose parents’ 31-year marriage has always been “relationship goals” and the kind of union she thought they both wanted for themselves and their children. Now, it seems that she was alone in this desire.
She says she was manipulated and gaslit for the past 10 years. She is honest in sharing that their relationship was not perfect, neither was she, but she thought they were working through the normal issues in ‘love and basketball’ and believed they were on the same page in wanting marriage and a family.
“There’s like this thing where it’s like we’re trying to figure out what relationships look like in this day and age, and what is going to work long-term. Not a lot of us are getting married anymore, and that was like how I was raised. Obviously, I saw a successful marriage; whether it was up or down, they stuck through it.”
In the face of disappointment and a rocky co-parenting relationship, Danielle chose herself and turned heartbreak and single motherhood into a new job in reality TV. When she accepted the role on “Basketball Wives: Orlando”, she saw it as a career move and a platform to promote her upcoming business, Empowered by Danielle. However, right before she moved to Orlando to tape the show, she learned that her ex-fiancé was in a monogamous relationship with another cast-mate, and the job she thought she was hired to do had changed.
The producers were more interested in a love triangle and not a breakup story. It became clear the overlap between she and her new co-worker was juicy enough for its own storyline, causing confusion and hurt for Danielle who never thought she would be in this position.
“How we got to the reality TV of it all, I don’t know.”
A family breakup is difficult to experience in private, and it can be more traumatic when it is the focus of workplace drama. Navigating the loss while dealing with single motherhood and the possibility that your ex has moved on with someone you work with is called good reality TV, but in real life it’s an old fashioned heartbreak, and it is not a pretty picture.
While some viewers may see her as a “bitter baby mama”, Danielle feels she has the right to show her full-range of emotions, something that often carries a penalty for Black women. She wanted the dream, not the drama.
Danielle maintains that most of the drama stems from the shock that he had a girlfriend when he was so opposed to monogamy. She believes he targeted the cast-mate after learning they would be on the same show. All of this new information opened up old wounds just as she was getting to a place of accepting her single status.
“How could he do this?”
She knows that some questions in love will go unanswered. She’s forgiven herself for forgoing her passion, a career in basketball, for the promise of being with the man she loved. When asked what she would tell other Black women faced with the same choice, she says, “Always put yourself first, and always put your career first.”
Lunchtime office conversations often revolve around office gossip, new recipes, meal preps, eating protocols and diets. Lately, the spotlight has turned to the carnivore diet, a controversial eating regimen that has garnered much attention in offices across the country. Colleagues are frequently surprised to see those participating in the diet losing weight while eating nothing but meat and fats.
Yes, meat, specifically, the fattiest cuts of beef, pork, poultry and lamb. Fish, eggs and fats, such as lard, butter and ghee, are also included. Only salt, pepper and bone broth are allowed for seasoning, while water is the sole liquid dieters can drink.
Many Black women are skeptical of the diet because the list of foods allowed triggers issues surrounding high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, about 42 percent of Black women in the U.S. have high or borderline-high total cholesterol levels, 58 percent have high blood pressure, and each year, almost 50,000 die from heart disease.
Content creator Crystal Wallar, age 42, started the Carnivore Diet six months ago after being a strict vegan for 15 years. High-stress community work and subsequent burnout caused her to gain 25 pounds last year. She is one of many Black women who became interested in the diet after seeing the hype on social media. Still, she had reservations because, for years, health professionals told her about the harmful effects of a diet high in meats and fat.
“I’ve had high blood pressure since I was in my 20s, so I was like, ‘I don’t know if I need to be doing this carnivore thing.”
Within six months, Wallar lost 22 pounds, and she says her moods are regulated, she hasn’t suffered any health consequences, and her appetite is much smaller.
“Now, how I’ve been lately is I have to force myself sometimes to eat a meal. If I eat breakfast, I will probably not eat a full lunch or dinner that day.”
Dr. Emi Hosoda, a board-certified doctor in internal medicine with post-graduate education in holistic health and functional medicine, says she would not recommend the diet due to its elimination of vegetables, a good source of vitamins and fiber. Still, she does believe it has some advantages.
“It actually really is low carb, and it removes grains, which I think is the problem most people have when it comes to inflation in their gut and not losing weight.”
She’s had her fair share of patients on the diet with mixed results across the board.
“What I’ve seen in my patients that have gone on it is actually the cholesterol. Some of them it goes up, some it goes down.”
Dr. Hosoda says that high cholesterol is mainly caused by a diet high in sugar, and many with cholesterol issues are genetically predisposed. Other complications gave her pause.
“I’ve also seen, in general, inflammation go up in my patients, who have gone on the carnivore diet, not down. I’ve also had some weird things like pretty healthy people getting weird infections and ending up in the ICU.”
While she says she can’t blame these infections solely on the diet, it was the significant change noted in her patient’s lives.
However, she says that, in general, she is open to diets that work because she wants more people to get off medications.
“If carnivore works for you, amazing! But I think you have to be careful to get your cholesterol checked, get your markers of inflammation checked, and ensure that those things are going down.”
Founders of Not Your Ordinary Films (NYOF), Jessica Chaney and Amanda Willoughby are the creators behind “I AM”, a documentary that launched in October. “I AM” centers on Black women who live with anxiety, tells stories about coping and thriving with a disorder that is often overlooked and misdiagnosed in Black women. Films that center Black women are often void of Black women working behind the camera and on the scene to ensure the voices are protected and the stories are told with honesty and dignity. These two women are changing the industry by choosing a career in film that centers Black voices through a mirroring lens.
Chaney and Willoughby met as co-workers at a Memphis Public Library and found a kinship in their shared desire to make movies. Willoughby, a graduate of the Memphis College of Art and a filmmaker, is the producer and editor for the project. She says their goal is to normalize Black people in mass media and tell the stories that are typically on the margins.
“We don’t want to make stereotypical Black content. We just want to tell everyday stories, normal stories, and these characters happen to be Black. Whatever comes along with being Black is going to show up in this story somewhere, anyway, because it’s our reality.”
“I AM” shares the dangers that lurk behind the shadows of anxiety that can render Black women strangers to their own thoughts. The force of this mental health disorder unveils the stark reality of the pressures and unfulfilled desires that silence Black women and often leave them to face the world alone.
The film was born out of personal experience for Chaney, director of the project, who suffered for years with anxiety. After participating in a director’s program at the University of South California (USC), she realized that telling her own stories could be a way to help others.
“Even from the time I was little, I’ve just genuinely enjoyed listening to people. I think people don’t understand how much others just want to be heard.”
Being understood and validated was a personal struggle for Chaney who for a very long time felt invisible. Although she has come to terms with this reality as a Black woman, some incidents still trigger these feelings.
“The other day, I was in Fresh Market, and I was in the middle of the aisle. Now, I am a fuller-figured girl, and I am in the middle of the damn aisle, and this white man was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t even see you there!’ And I was like, ‘Sir, how did you not see ME and be bold enough to tell me?’”
The women in the film are boldly telling their truths, unfiltered and uncensored. Like Chaney, they experienced exhaustion, frustration, depression, hurt and anger and realized they wanted more from life than these feelings that were holding them back.
Willoughby believes many aspects of Black women’s lives contribute to their anxiety, including racism, societal pressures and being expected to carry the burdens in all aspects of their lives. She says many Black women “Have the feeling that ‘if I do break, nobody is there to catch me, so I can’t be the one to break’.”
Chaney says that unlike other women, Black women are not allowed to have a full range of emotions. She wants this film to give Black women permission to feel joy.
Willoughby’s goal is for the film to resonate with Black women who want others to see their humanity.
“It comes back to people calling us intimidating, or I’ve heard aggressive, yet we’re always expected to be on top of things, and sometimes I am just winging it.”
They both acknowledge that Black women are often thrust into jobs and careers that can provide security for their families, sometimes forgoing their aspirations.
Chaney explains that becoming filmmakers has been a healing journey for them.
“Black women, we’re the doers and a lot of times, we don’t get the liberties to be the dreamers and the thinkers.”
She believes there is a huge pool of untapped talent among Black women who can be deterred by a lack of resources and guidance, which can lead to anxiety that shows up as irritability, anger and frustration.
“As they grow as women and in their careers, they are unlearning behaviors embedded for generations, such as justifying wanting beautiful things, taking trips or changing careers.”
She believes that telling important stories from their perspective is a calling.
“It’s so important for us to be in this position where we are able to take ownership of these stories. This is where we feel most comfortable and where it feels like joy.”
Los Angeles-based travel creator, Dr. N’Dea Irvin-Choy changed her career path from biochemical engineer to full-time content creator six months before receiving her graduate degree. She packed up her belongings, moved to L.A. and wrote her thesis there while figuring out how she was going to turn content creation into her career and lifestyle. Like many others, she is figuring out her travel plans for the winter and shared four top travel destinations for Black women for 2023-2024.
The 27th Annual MLK Ski Weekend returns to Blue Mountain Resort in The Blue Mountains of Ontario, Canada, to celebrate the MLK holiday weekend. For those who enjoy or want to learn how to ski or snowboard, there are packages and lessons available. If you prefer to skip the slopes, there are spa options, a comedy show, happy hours, pool parties and themed activities. You can even sip hot chocolate or grab a beer while watching the NFL playoffs!
2. Geneva, Switzerland
Another cold climate destination to put on your calendar this winter is Geneva, Switzerland. It is heaven for Chocolate lovers, as Swiss Chocolate is coveted all over the world. There are chocolate-tasting tours and opportunities to submerse yourself in chocolate culture. There are day trips to Mount Blanc, the highest peak in the Swiss Alps and the Swiss Riviera. If you prefer to travel with a group, The Travel Divas have a trip coming up Nov. 30-Dec. 8 with a package that includes an evening cruise with dinner on Lake Geneva, a gala, brunches and guided tours, such as a culinary day trip or an inside look at prestigious Swiss watchmaking.
3. Accra, Ghana
Last but not least, is making the pilgrimage to Accra, Ghana for “Detty December”, a time of holiday celebration for the entire month of December and into the New Year, when Accra is filled with art, music, entertainment and thousands of brothers and sisters from across the diaspora. Ghana has first-class accommodations, beautiful beaches and cultural emersion like no other. For those interested in learning about history, a guided day tour up the coast to Elmina Castle offers a first-hand look at the slave dungeons and walks you through the journey to the Americas and the Caribbean. If you enjoy the party scene, there are day parties and night parties that last until the daylight. Ghana is one of the best, most fascinating places to be in December!
While it may be winter, a few prefer warm destinations. If that’s more your style this winter, look no further than Curacao, a Dutch Caribbean Island known for its white sand beaches and distinguished marine life. There are underwater walking tours, opportunities to swim with sea turtles, ATV adventures and good old-fashioned lounging on the beach with a cold drink and vibes.
Finding ways to entertain yourself and give your mind a break from the obstacles of life can become a stressful task with all of the options – from social media to the hundreds of TV apps available. Never fear, we have three ways for you to escape and lose yourself in someone else’s drama for a change. Enjoy!
1. Book: Leap of Faith by Pam Kelly
MEET. DATE. LOVE. MARRIAGE.
THE TYPICAL ORDER OF RELATIONSHIPS.
UNTIL ROBERT MEETS PATRICIA.
Robert McKnight was a forensic accountant with a secret life that he could only share with immediate family. Tired of serial dating, he was ready for love, marriage, and family.
Patricia Harris wrote about love and happily ever after but had not fully experienced it herself. Recently divorced, she was resigned to a quiet life of work and writing until her heart could heal. Then came Robert McKnight.
A chance meeting at his birthday dinner generated Panther Heat–mutual hot, steamy attraction, plus stimulating conversation, a marriage proposal, and a wedding ceremony, all on the same night. When real life set in, she starts to wonder if ‘happily ever after’ was possible after all.
Available wherever books are sold and can be ordered at your local library.
For more information about the book and the author, and read several book reviews from Amazon, scan the QR code.
Where to watch: NETFLIX
After a bad breakup, passionate stylist Mavis Beaumont seizes the opportunity to start over in life and love while finding happiness on her own terms.
3. Kizilcik Serbeti (Cranberry Sorbet)
Where to watch: Yoturkish.app
Two families, one modern and the other traditional have different perspectives on life. They come together for the sake of their children who are in love, but uniting the two worldviews causes conflict, drama and questions about religion and love. Can love conquer all?
This series was very controversial in Turkey and has captured audiences around the world. Lucky for us, English subtitles are available.