Monday, October 6, 2014

Take Care of Your Teeth Like Your Crotch and Other Lessons on Love, Career and Life I Learned from Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams signing books after her talk.
Photo by Jenee Darden 
How you doin’?

I had a BLAST seeing Wendy Williams at the Ultimate Women’s Expo is San Mateo. It was almost like being at her show. The stage area was jam packed with hundreds of women excited to hear Wendy’s speech. There was barely any standing room and not one seat empty.

She kept it her Wendy-self by coming on stage with her purse (it was a cute royal blue bag). 

“I’m not perfect but I was invited here to share my story,” she said.

She didn’t deliver a formal speech, but more like a “girl, I’m keeping it real about life” talk.

Here are some life lessons Wendy touched upon:


“We can’t have it all. Some things you have to give up to get what you want. “
For example, she talks about sacrificing some of her social life with girlfriends to be a mom and wife. And how she didn’t have time to luxuriate in Cali during her trip. She flew straight to Cali that morning and was heading back to Jersey the same day to be with her husband and son.

She doesn’t have time for girlfriends. She said girlfriends are for the time when you’re single and the nest is empty.
I didn’t get the sense that a lot of people agreed with Wendy on this one. Sure you may not be able to hang with your girls as much once the hubby and kids come, but it never hurts to have a good friend. Hell, you may need that friend to vent about your husband and kids.

If Plan A doesn’t work, have Plan B and C.
So true. Sometimes our dreams and goals don’t take the route we expect.

“Everyone is not built for college, but you've got to do something. Shout out to the trade schools, nail technicians, plumbers…”
While I strongly encourage college education from an accredited university (not those diploma mills that run TV ads during daytime television), I don’t think everyone has to attend college. But like she said, you need some kind of skill and a plan. Wendy did express that she wants her son to go to college but if he chose to be a plumber for example, she’d want him to own a company and become the next Roto-Rooter.

Love Tips

Men are everywhere!
My grandmother, the one with the Sexy bag, says the same thing. Wendy said one of the most stupid  
Wendy Williams breaks it down to the audience. 
questions she gets is, “Where can I find a man?” She says men are at the little league game, in the store, walking down the street, etc. She suggested when you see a guy just make eye contact and give him a smile.

“Don’t settle, but remix what you thought you wanted." 
This one hit me because I’m a, as Wendy would say,  woman of certain age. An example she gave was her height preference. She's tall, however if she was single and in her 50’s she would date a shorter man.
“I would remix my options because I don’t want to miss out on one great love, “ she said.
She’s not saying to settle for any man with a pulse, but look at your list of priorities.  Can there be exceptions made—like height, race or age?  Author and matchmaker Paul C. Brunson does a great job in explaining meeting a man who shares your values in his book It’s Not That Complicated.

“There’s nothing wrong with liking the comfort of a man as long as you got yourself together. Take care of yourself. “
This was one of my favorite tips. I agree 100 percent! It is okay to want to be loved and admired by a man or a woman. It is okay to want someone to date, cuddle with, etc. But don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re emotionally and financially dependent on that person.
She shared, “I knew what I wanted to be in my 20s. But I wasn’t going to let love stop me from doing what I want.  Don’t put his name on the lease. Don’t let a love be so strong you won’t take that job in Chicago. “

“Date often, date many. You don’t have to date one man at a time.”
I can’t argue with this one. Women are usually discouraged from dating multiple men. But why not? Dating helps you figure out what you want. Dating a lot doesn’t mean having side pieces when you’re in a committed relationship.

“Never give up on finding love.
“Society has brainwashed us into thinking men only want someone 22, “ Wendy said. “Not true.” She  used actresses Fran Drescher, 57 and Gabrielle Union, 41 as examples because they both recently married. 
If I were to give up on love, I would be sad and bitter. I don’t think I could ever give up hope on finding love. Some days I do for a moment, but not permanently. You gotta keep the faith.

 “Don’t neglect your teeth. The way a woman takes care of her teeth is how she takes care of her crotch. “
How you doin'?
It’s been hard for me to brush my teeth without thinking about this quote. I don’t know if it’s true but it sure is funny.

“Leave that Coach Bag in the store. Take care of your teeth. “
Amen! Ladies, get your financial priorities together. Being hood rich isn’t cute.

After her talk, we had an “Ask Wendy” moment.  Wendy took about 12 questions. One was from a woman who has been engaged to a man for two years and her fiancé has yet to tell his family or friends. Wendy suggested she to tell her fiance he needs to tell his mom by the next day or she’s out. The questions were crazy—mainly women and their concerns for men who didn’t seem dedicated to them.

I had a great time. If Wendy Williams ever comes to your town, go see her.  She’s a lot of fun. Remember to brush your teeth twice a day and your crotch…I think?

 Just practicing for when she interviews me about my book in the future.
A girl can dream...and make it a reality. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Beyoncé and Jay Z are On the Run, On HBO Tonight

My On The Run T-shirt from their stop
at the Rose Bowl.
Photo by Jenee Darden
This has been a great year for me in terms of live music. I’ve seen a range of performers from Jill Scott and Charlie Wilson to Mint Condtion (twice) and jazz artists Ellis and Delfeayo Marsalis.

One of my favorite shows so far has been Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On The Run tour.  I had so much fun when I saw them at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena last month. They performed many of their hit songs going back to the ‘90s all the way to today.  I was on my feet damn near the whole night.

On The Run is a story of outlaws in love. Jay Z and Bey have different styles of music. But the way their songs were performed in order to tell a story was done masterfully.

I’m not crazy about videos on stage at concerts. I just want to hear people sing. However, the black and white videos in the show were beautiful. Again the sequence of the songs along with video told this story of romantic rebels perfectly.

I'm eagerly awaiting Bey and Jay Z
at the Rose Bowl. 

Of course the music was off the hook. Jay Z had us bobbing  Bey shows some cheek. But her looks ranged from sexy leotards to B-girl, to classy. By the way,  I really want Bey’s diamond-studded, mesh ski mask.
our heads and reciting his lyrics. And Beyoncé is a hell of a performer. Just her choreography alone, in heels, was beyond impressive. Her costumes were sexy.

The show was expensive but Bey and J made sure we got our money’s worth. For those of you who haven’t seen the show, you have the best seat in your house. Watch the On The Run Tour tonight on HBO. It's a recording of their Paris show.  Watch it with your girls or with your boo.  The concert made for a great date night, because the fellas at the Rose Bowl were digging Jay Z and the ladies were feeling Beyoncé.  It’s something for everyone. The music is banging. It's a show not to be missed. 

#OnTheRunHBO comes on tonight at 9pm.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Janay Rice Attacked the Public

Silly hoe, stupid bitch, dumb ass, gold digger, in it for the dick, thug... 

These are some of the words I've seen people use to describe Janay Rice, wife of former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice.

I don't understand how people can blame a woman for being knocked unconscious on an elevator by her 212lbs, professional football player husband. I don't understand how people can wish for her safety and then in the same sentence call her a "dumb ass" or a "stupid bitch."

As I've said on Facebook and on Twitter, I don't agree with her staying either, but I don't know why she's staying with him. She may be in love. She may be afraid he'll kill her if she leaves. She may not have anywhere to go. I don't know. And if she is staying for love, which is common for women who have battered wife syndrome, I don't see how further degrading her with vile names is going to help  her.

I volunteered at a domestic violence safe house when I was in college. In my current job, some of the women who use our services have been abused. And I personally know of beautiful, brilliant women who were in abusive relationships. I could not imagine calling any of them a "stupid bitch" or "dumb ass" while they were being hurt or not ready to leave their abusers.

I believe a lot of people are saying they don't feel bad for Janay because she's wealthy and they think she's taking the beatings for the money. I can't but help feel bad for the mother of a baby and the wife on a man who knocks the shit out of her on an elevator and then drags her body out like trash.

I'm disappointed in the many women who are victim blaming Janay Rice. I think a lot of us have internalized our sexism, misogyny and gendered oppression.

And I'm disappointed with so many in the black community who are victim blaming Janay Rice. It's Rihanna and Chris Brown all over again. We march, scream, protest, and make hashtags for black men when they are assaulted. But let a black woman get attacked by a black man and there's crickets. Or, they find some reason to blame her. We invisibilize our own women's oppression as an act of racial loyalty and to protect black men. I know many black men have it hard, but so do a hell of a lot of black women.

I feel bad for Janay Rice. I hope she does leave her husband, unharmed and alive. I feel bad that her baby is being raised in a violent home. Black women are 3 times more likely to die by their partner or ex-partner than any other racial group.

I feel bad for the many women in violent relationships who have seen some of the ignorant, hurtful, harsh, sexist posts and tweets from their loved ones and are probably now even more hesitant to tell someone they're in their danger. One in 3 women in the U.S. have experienced violence in an intimate relationship. Chances are you know someone who has been abused.

As I've been saying in social media, to people talking down about Janay Rice -- you don't know WHO is reading your posts. You don't know WHO grew up in a violent home or is a victim of an abusive relationship. Some people I personally know slamming Janay Rice online, have friends that I know who have been in abusive relationships. But those critics don't know about what their friends experienced. There may be a certain reason why your woman friend, cousin, girlfriend, aunt, mom etc. has been pretty quiet about Ray and Janay Rice fiasco.

The violence against women must stop. Misogyny and sexism must end. Defending abusive men because their famous must stop. The NFL needs to do better.

And black folks need to stop defending men we know good and damn well are abusing, misusing and abandoning our women because "brothas have it hard." That kind of thinking is killing our women. And yes, Janay Rice getting beat is OUR problem. Domestic violence is OUR problem, just like police brutality is OUR problem.

Lastly have some damn compassion for the woman and pray she and her baby get out safely and alive.

Here's an article about people who personally know Janay Rice.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is Beyonce a Feminist?

Beyonce in superhero stance at the MTV VMAs. 
There she stood in all of her pop goddess glory at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA). Bootylicious, Independent Woman, Diva, Queen B, King Bey, Destiny’s Child, Flawless—all adjectives and nicknames we’ve called Beyonce over the years. And near the end of her MTV performance she stands like a superhero in front of a new word to add to the list, “Feminist.” 

I’ve watched MTV for a long time and I can’t recall a time where anyone mentioned or displayed the word “feminist” on the VMAs, let alone with such pride. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but if it did, it’s been a long time. While so many women were excited about Beyonce once again proclaiming feminism, I’m still not sold entirely sold on Beyonce being a feminist.  

I’ve been following Beyonce’s career since she and Destiny’s Child did the “Jumpin’, Jumpin’” remix with Wyclef Jean back in 1999. I bought her new self-titled album Beyonce and  was hella excited to see her and Jay Z during their “On the Run” tour.  Beyonce has always been pro-woman and taken pride in her womanhood. I’ve thrown my hands up to “Independent Women.”“Survivorwas one of the songs that fueled me in college. I’ve shaken it to “Run the World (Girls).”  And if I ever dated a guy who was slow on getting on bended knee, I sure would tell him to “Put a Ring on It.”  Her sampling of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’sWe Should All Be Feminists” Ted Talk  in “Flawless” is what really ignited this feminist discussion. That is why I was so, so, so disappointed with Beyonce when she allowed Jay Z to compare himself to woman beating, misogynist Ike Turner in her song Drunk In Love

I’m Ike Turner, turn up
Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake, Anna Mae
Said eat the cake, Anna Mae  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Michael Brown and the Mental Scars of Racism and Injustice in Ferguson

Michael Brown
So much has already been said about the uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri and the unjust killing of Michael Brown. I’m tired of unarmed black men being brutalized and killed by law enforcement. I’m tired of unarmed black women being brutalized and killed by law enforcement. I’m tired of people saying we live in a “post-racial society” because we have an African-American president. I’m tired of living in one of two Americas—one for them, one for us. In one of two Americas, black people pay double the price and treated twice as bad. To paraphrase a meme I saw on Facebook—I’m tired of black people calling for justice when a black person is shot by a white person. But when a black person shoots another black person, and someone reports it, they are called a snitch. I’m tired of fearing for the black men in my circle and family. 

Racism can and does have psychological effects on people who are oppressed. From the images I’ve seen in the news, parts of Ferguson look like a war zone. The heavy police presence, gun fire, tear gas, tears of the people, marches, curfews,  protestors being assaulted, journalists silenced—I can’t help but not be concerned about people’s mental wellness. 

There were people who saw Michael Brown be shot to death. I’m sure there are people living in fear in Ferguson. Parents are worried about their black children, especially their sons. When you’re exposed to so much turmoil, and witnessing back-to-back traumatic events, that can be seriously disturbing to your mental wellness and peace of mind. 

I’m concerned about the people’s minds. I’m concerned about the children being exposed to the violence and chaos. I’m concerned about the loud boom noises that are scaring them at night. I’m concerned that they’re scared when their mommy, daddy or Uncle June leaves the house because they fear they won’t return. I’m concerned they fear they may end up like Michael Brown. 

May people think PTSD or trauma mainly affects soldiers. You don’t have to be fighting in a war overseas to have trauma. There are people in the USA suffering from trauma due to violence in their neighborhoods.  So I hope that the people in Ferguson are taking care of their mental wellness best they can. I hope when the smoke clears, there will be counselors available for children at schools to process all of this. I hope people are praying, meditating, tuning out the loud noise with music, supporting each other, loving each other and doing whatever they can to mentally survive, and not be left with too much scarring. I hope people get help and have access to help if they need to talk to someone. Racism and injustice leaves mental scars. 

Emmitt Till didn’t deserve to die. 
Latasha Harris didn’t deserve to die.
Sean Bell didn’t deserve to die. 
Mitrice Richardson didn’t deserve to die. 
Oscar Grant didn’t deserve to die. 
Trayvon Martin didn’t deserve to die
Renisha McBride didn’t deserve to die. 
John Crawford III didn’t deserve to die .
Michael Brown didn’t deserve to die.
The countless others who stories didn’t make headlines-- didn’t deserve to die. 

Racism and injustice leave mental scars. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

I’m Taking Arianna Huffington’s Advice and Sleeping My Way to the Top

Photo by Xautumnx 
Somehow I missed Arianna Huffington’s bedtime call to action in 2010, which is to get more sleep. At the BlogHer ’14 conference I attended, she shared how passing out was her wakeup call. 

The incident is described in the “Sleep Challenge 2010” Huffington Post article by Glamour magazine Editor Cindi Lieve, who wrote, “…as for Arianna, she had a rude (and painful) awakening two years ago when she passed out from exhaustion, broke her cheekbone and got five stitches over her eye. Ever since then, she's been working on bringing more balance, and more sleep, into her life­ with varying degrees of success.” 

At BlogHer we all laughed when Arianna said she told the Smith College graduates during her commencement speech that sleeping their way to the top was the key to success. Part of me laughed and another part wanted to scream AMEN!. 

Prior to arriving to BlogHer,  I was tired as hell. Not tired from a tough day or week. I was
Arianna Huffington tells BlogHer to put in close to 8 hours
in bed. 
tired from years of exhaustion. For the last three years I wasn’t getting enough sleep. It started when I was helping my grandfather with cancer. Sometimes there were calls in the middle of night when he was sick. And then there’s bracing yourself for that call you don’t want to get when someone is ill. Living at home was stressful. Work was stressful. Anxiety kicked in full gear.  The internet and Craig Ferguson’s Late, Late Show were my comforts. I was going to bed on average 1am every night and waking up at 7am. Six hours. That’s not enough sleep.

“Americans are increasingly sleep-deprived, and the sleepiest people are, you guessed it, women,” Lieve reported.  “Single working women and working moms with young kids are especially drowsy: They tend to clock in an hour and a half shy of the roughly 7.5-hour minimum the human body needs to function happily and healthfully.”

Single working woman—that’s me! Six hours a night—that’s me! That was me. Sleep deprivation caused me to be cranky, irritated, sometimes less focused. And I believe it played a part in how I developed fibroids, gained weight and was easy at contracting bugs. Plus, sleep deprivation is horrible for people living with depression. I knew better. I needed to make some changes immediately. 
Even after moving out, laying my grandfather to rest, and getting rid of other stressors I was still tired. I kept telling myself I needed to sleep more, but didn’t listen. 
Finally, right before BlogHer, I decided to start getting at least 8 hours of sleep. I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep because there’s so much to do during the conference. But when I got back to Oakland, I started sleeping more during the week. I was just tired of being exhausted. 
Before, I would catch up on sleep on Sunday mornings. Then I’d start the bad sleep habits Sunday night. No more. 
Now I try to be in bed by 11pm. I wasn’t sure if I could do it because I’m naturally a night owl anyway. But since going cold turkey on staying up about a month ago,  most nights I’ve slept at least 8 hours and it has made a difference. I have more energy and I’m feeling sharper. Luckily I get sleepy around 11:00, unless I’m out partying.

At BlogHer, Arianna Huffington spoke about how our culture values putting business before sleep.  And she mentioned how we brag about having very little sleep but accomplishing things. When in reality, we probably would have more or better accomplishments if we had more sleep. Our bodies need sleep to replenish itself. 
I’m over the “I worked 12 hours and got 4 hours of sleep” mentality. It may sound cool, but the bags under people’s eyes tell another story. Yeah it’s hard not to stay up late and write a blog post or watch Craig Ferguson bust jokes with his skeleton robot. But a girl has to get her beauty and brain sleep. A girl wants to get back into her jeans. A girl wants to be her own boss, full time. 
Sweet dreams. 
Photo by mmagallan

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Compassion for Robin: My TV Interview About Robin Williams, Depression and Suicide

"I kind of see myself in this glass box, surrounded by darkness. And through that glass box I can see my healthy self. I can see my happy self. And I’m trying to push through it." 

Last Tuesday morning, I was not feeling well. But I threw on a dress, put on some lipstick and dragged myself to work. About 30 minutes after I arrived to work, the interim executive director asked me to return a call from KTVU news reporter John Fowler. He was looking for someone to talk about depression and give their thoughts on actor Robin Williams, 63 ending his life. Within 45 minutes I was on camera

People were, and still are, terribly upset over Robin Williams’ death. There was so much speculation throughout the internet. Of course, there were the people calling him a coward, selfish, etc. But they don’t understand how depression works. I’ve lived with it for about 21 years, I know. 

One of the reasons why I did the interview is I  wanted people to have compassion for the man. Forget the rumors, the speculations, the trolls. Forget those who are not knowledgeable about depression and are saying cruel things. The man was in deep, emotional pain. We don’t know what his life was like when the cameras were off. We don’t know what struggles he endured before he became a star. No, I didn’t want to see him go out like that, but for him to be in such agony that he would leave behind the fame and his family, I can’t help but have compassion for him. Depression doesn’t care about your race, gender, class, hair length, eye color, favorite NFL team, if you’re a Trojan or a Bruin. Depression can affect anyone. 

Jenee Darden with reporter John Fowler 

Reporter John Fowler was very understanding. He made me feel comfortable. He didn’t do the story for sensationalism. He wanted people to get an understanding of how depression feels for people. Plus, he has loved ones living with mental health challenges so he came to the interview with compassion. 

Another reason why I spoke on camera is because I know there are people living with depression, watching television thinking they’re the only struggling with this condition. They may think they’re the only one whose life sucks and is gloomy. I wanted them to see they are not alone in their struggle. 

Thank you to everyone who sent me a kind message about the interview. I have received majority positive feedback. I’ve heard through my family grapevine that some people didn’t approve of me disclosing on camera. I expected some to react like that, but I didn’t do it for them. Plus, this isn’t my first time disclosing. I've disclosed on the podcast I host for work, social media, and Huffington Post. It's not a secret anymore. 

Feedback like this from a college professor that follows me on Facebook, make me happy I went on air:  
"One day I will summon the courage to publicly admit that I, too, have been diagnosed with depression. Until then, I will just stand back and let those more courageous than I speak." 

 I  also spoke up because people shouldn’t be ashamed about something they didn’t ask for. Trust me, I’m not jumping in line with my hand raised asking God to activate my depression. I hope that when a friend or loved one tells you they have any kind of mental illness, that you listen to them. What those of us experience with depression is not easy. Luckily, it can be managed. 

I strongly believe in education. I hope people learned something new about depression from my interview, even if it's just that you can recover from it. 

For those living with depression, reach out to people. Reach out to your loved ones and tell them how they can support you. I’ve reached out to people recently and it felt good. Don’t be ashamed and have compassion for yourself.

One of things I said that was left out the interview is that I have more good days, than blue days. Thankfully, most of my days are bright, or average. But it takes some work. Aside from exercise, I have to make sure I eat healthy and get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is so not good for my mental health. I practice mindfulness to keep my mind from racing. I have books and methods I use to keep me thinking positively. And when I need to go, I'll see a therapist. 

Robin Williams left smiles on many faces during his lifetime. Hopefully his death is raising mental health awareness and saving many lives. 

Watch the interview here


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