All Articles Tagged "essence"

Gabrielle Union Covers Essence, Says She Understands If You Can’t Support Birth Of A Nation

October 11th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Gabrielle Union is striking quite the fierce pose for the November issue of Essence, and talking about everything from her fears as a stepmother of Black boys, to aging, and the drama surrounding Birth of a Nation.

Inside the issue, the 43-year-old said that she doesn’t worry about aging because she has more important things to worry about.

“I’m at an age where my ego doesn’t live and die by how many lines I have,” she said. “There’s more to life than line counting.”

That “more to life” includes being a great stepmother to husband Dwyane Wade’s sons Zaire and Zion, as well as the ballplayer’s nephew Dahveon whom Wade has custody of. She told the magazine that she worries often about them all of the time, especially with all of the instances of police brutality that have been in the news as of late.

“Until they walk through the door, I’m terrified,” she said. “Sometimes I just want to stay off my timeline, because it makes those waits until they walk through the door a thousand times worse. One of my biggest fears is them being a hashtag on some bulls—t.”

When she’s not busy looking after the young-ins, Wade is busy shooting Being Mary Jane, which returns in January, as well as her films Almost Christmas, which comes out November 11, and Birth of a Nation, which just came out on Friday. Union said that while she hopes people will give the latter film a chance because of its powerful story, she understands if those put off by the controversy surrounding filmmaker Nate Parker choose not to.

“As a rape survivor and as an advocate, I cannot shy away from this responsibility because the conversation got difficult,” Union said. “I don’t want to put myself above anyone’s pain or triggers. Every victim or survivor, I believe you. I support you. I support you if you don’t want to see the film. I absolutely understand and respect that. I can’t sell the film. This movie has always been about more than one person, and for the outspoken feminist advocates and allies who risked a lot to be a part of this project—Aja Naomi King, Aunjanue Ellis, Penelope Ann Miller—we are okay if you have to sit this one out, and we’re okay if you don’t, and we understand.”

Union also shared behind-the-scenes video and a photo from her photo shoot on Instagram. It included her dancing in a fringe jacket to Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover”:

Behind the scenes at my #Essence mag shoot… Thank you glam ❤s @larryjarahsims @kristoferbuckle #StateOfTheUnion

A photo posted by Gabrielle Union-Wade (@gabunion) on

Behind the scenes at my #Essence mag shoot… Thank you glam ❤s @larryjarahsims @kristoferbuckle #StateOfTheUnion

A photo posted by Gabrielle Union-Wade (@gabunion) on

Don’t you love everything about this photo shoot and cover? Wade sure does. He was caught by The Shaderoom saying that he hoped his wife kept the trench coat she wore front and center because “I got plans for it.

Naughty, naughty…and we love it.

“It Matters.” Michelle Obama Talks Importance Of Black Children Seeing First Family In The White House

September 8th, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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Michelle Obama Talks Importance Of Black Children Seeing First Family In The White House

Source: Essence

Every image of the Obamas these days is bittersweet. We know we’re looking at some of the last moments of this historic presidency. I had one of those moments when Essence unveiled their October cover featuring the first couple. In the excerpts from the article, the magazine claimed to want to send these two off with a hug and a salute. And inside, the Obamas spoke about life in the White House, what they’ll do afterward and the legacy they hope to leave behind.

President Obama, big-upping himself a bit, said, “…I can unequivocally say that America is better off now than we were when we came into office. By almost every economic measure, we’re better off. But having said that, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Inside the book, there’s this incredibly sweet picture of the first couple looking, lovingly, at each other.

Michelle Obama Talks Importance Of Black Children Seeing First Family In The White House

Source: Essence

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Michelle is filling out this dress in all the right places. One of my Instagram friends noted last night that we might not have noticed this particular curve because they’ve styled her in A-line dresses for so long. But I’m happy to see those “Let’s Move” squats have been paying off.

And Mrs. Obama spoke about the legacy of visibility she hopes to leave for Black children.

“I think when it comes to Black kids, it means something for them to have spent most of their life seeing the family in the White House look like them,” Mrs. Obama said. “It matters. All the future work that Barack talked about, I think over these last few years, we’ve kind of knocked the ceiling of limitation off the roofs of many young kids; imaginations of what’s possible for them. And as a mother, I wouldn’t underestimate how important that is, having that vision that you can really do anything—not because somebody told you, but because you’ve seen and experienced it. I think that will be a lasting impact on our kids.”


Veronica Wells is the culture editor at She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”

Essence Debuts The Who’s Who In Their #BlackGirlMagic Class Of 2016

January 6th, 2016 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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To get us ready for Black History Month, ESSENCE rolled out their latest covers celebrating their #BlackGirlMagic Class of 2016!

Young Hollywood actresses such as Teyonah Parris (Chi-raq), Yara Shahidi (black-ish) and social activist Johnetta “Netta” Elzie of the Ferguson, Missouri movement were featured showcasing how both celebrities and activists are paying it forward by empowering young Black girls to pursue their dreams. Sixteen-year-old Shahidi noted why this feature is the best thing about being a Black girl at this time:

“Being a part of this reemergence of a movement both pro-diversity and pro-woman is the best part of being a Black girl.”

ESSENCE also revealed that their readers will also see stars like Zendaya Coleman, Aja Naomi King (HTGAWM) and the Black women who are revamping the tech world one app at a time, honored as well.

To be wowed by some more #BlackGirlMagic and learn something new about Black History Month, pick up the February 2016 copy of Essence on newsstands now!

15 Of Our Favorite Magazine Covers Featuring Black Women In 2015

October 20th, 2015 - By Desiree Bowie
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Misty Copeland

Source: Essence

There used to be a time when the only magazines that featured Black women on their cover were Ebony, Essence, Jet, and Vibe. Well, times have changed, and Black women of all shades, ages, and sizes are showing up and showing out on a variety of mainstream magazines all over newsstands. We’re being represented just about everywhere. Let’s take a look at the top 15 covers of the year so far.

Michael B. Jordan Sets The Record Straight On “All Lives Matter” Speculation With Open Letter

September 26th, 2015 - By Ashley Monaé
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This has been a pretty rough week for the #MCM of many a.k.a. talented and equally handsome thespian, Michael B. Jordan.

What was supposed to be a great reveal of his GQ cover story Tuesday (Sept. 22), as he opened up about growing up on the east coast, Kendall Jenner dating rumors, and being Black in Hollywood, had many giving the 28-year-old side eyes. And when an alleged Snapchat sent by Jordan with an “All Lives Matter” message began to gain traction with numerous reports, things went complete left.

Yesterday (Sept. 25) night, Jordan penned an open letter given exclusively to ESSENCE, in which he clarifies the statements from his controversial cover story. In the letter, he begins by assuring readers that he’s in full support of the #BlackLivesMatter and has always been.”It is frustrating to see a false claim stirred up on social media which has caused my supporters to question where I stand on this crucial issue. But I am confident that my history and continued engagement with my community will speak louder than unfounded rumors,” he wrote.

Jordan also goes on to address to female fans, as well as race in Hollywood.

Read his full letter below:

I have been a professional actor for most of my life, but being regarded as a leading man is new to me and has taken some getting used to. Recently I had the opportunity to be featured on the cover of one of my favorite magazines. In the interview, several points that I shared were communicated in ways that do not reflect my true feelings and opinions. In addition, there were reports written about me elsewhere that simply aren’t true. I’d like to set the record straight.

First and foremost, I believe that Black Lives Matter – unequivocally and without exception. I have never said, written, snapchatted, tweeted, Instagrammed or implied anything to the contrary. Any report that states otherwise is a complete fabrication. I portrayed Oscar Grant in my first leading role in a feature film, Fruitvale Station. I am a founding member of the Blackout for Human Rights Network. I gave a speech just a few months ago on the importance of the Black Lives Matter Movement at the BET Awards. It is frustrating to see a false claim stirred up on social media which has caused my supporters to question where I stand on this crucial issue. But I am confident that my history and continued engagement with my community will speak louder than unfounded rumors.

Secondly, it is challenging to have a nuanced conversation about race and Hollywood period. This sensitive subject becomes even more complicated when you’re dealing with soundbites and articles. A simple idea or opinion can be abbreviated and distorted as it is communicated to readers out of context. Allow me to be clear about my ideas on roles traditionally reserved for White actors. My goal is for my choices and opportunities, as well as those of my fellow actors and actresses of color, to be predicated on our talent, ability and passion and not on false notions of what color an artist must be to play certain roles. I’ve had the honor to portray Black characters written and directed by Black filmmakers—a privilege that too few actors of color enjoy because of the challenges of Black artistry and access behind the camera. But in addition to those wonderful roles, I also want to have the option to play all kinds of parts with no door closed to actors and actresses like myself.

Lastly, my fans who are women mean the world to me. This is especially true of Black women, who as a group have supported my work long before the industry knew my name. I deeply regret and am ashamed that I said anything to disappoint or disparage them. I apologize with my whole heart for referring to women in the way that I did. The word ‘female’ used in the manner that I did is dismissive and strips women of their humanity. It is a slang term that guys sometimes use to sound slick and cool coming up. But words have power and I realize now more than ever that this careless language is dehumanizing, inappropriate, and immature. I’m a better man than that. This reference to women will not come out of my mouth publicly or in private again.

In all, although some of what I said was taken out of context, I take full responsibility for the interview and I apologize for the hurt and confusion it has caused. This has been an important lesson for me. I humbly ask my fans to grow with me, as I learn more about myself and this industry.

Thank you.


TGIT! Shondaland Covers October Issue Of Essence Magazine

September 10th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: Essence

Shonda Rhimes is on top. And when a Black woman’s on top, it only makes sense that Essence would feature said woman on the cover of their publication. Shonda’s appeared on the cover before. But her influence and effect on the industry warrants more than just one cover. So Essence honored her with six for the October issue. But it’s not just Shonda, it’s all of the Black actors and actresses she’s put on during her reign.

The covers feature actors and actresses from “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How To Get Away With Murder,” and “Scandal.”

Check out the covers and some excerpts from the upcoming article on the following pages.

“I Didn’t Want To Believe I Had Mental Health Issues” Lisa Nicole Carson Opens Up About Her Bipolar Disorder

June 10th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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lisa nicole carson

Source: WENN

We all remember Lisa Nicole Carson from our favorite ’90’s movies. Whether it was Jason’s Lyric, Love Jones or Devil In a Blue Dress, the girl showed us her talent time and time again. And then she seemed to disappear from the entertainment scene. Years later, we would learn that Carson was living with a bipolar disorder. But that was the all the information we received.

Now, in a recent interview with Essence Magazine, Carson is opening up about her brand of bipolar, how it affected her career and how she manages it today.

See what she had to say in the excerpts below.

How she learned she was living with bipolar disorder 

I was the belle of the ball in the late nineties, with roles on Ally McBeal and ER and in Love Jones. I’ve always been full of energy and would often be twirling around on sets. But my high-spirited moments looked like something else to one of the producers on ER. He had a family history of bipolar disorder and thought I might be exhibiting some of the symptoms. I didn’t know what he was talking about or how it could apply to me, so I just continued with my life. A year later I was in New York City catching up with loved ones when I unexpectedly had a fit in my hotel—yelling, throwing things, crying and raising enough hell that the staff called an ambulance. I ended up being hospitalized for a few weeks, and a psychiatrist gave a diagnosis: bipolar disorder. I was stunned and clueless, and so was my family. I didn’t want to believe I had any mental health issues and went into denial. I was supposed to take medicine, and I didn’t. I’m animated and exuberant, and this made it difficult to determine what was my normal and what was actually odd behavior.

How it affected her career

During my stay in the hospital, I was given medicine to stabilize my moods, and I spoke with a therapist. Upon being discharged, I returned to Los Angeles and went back to work on Ally McBeal feeling more in control. Everybody on the show was wonderful to me, but my contract wasn’t renewed for the final season. Nobody gave me an explanation, but I assumed it had to do with what had happened. I was devastated.

Once my episode became public, I was torn apart in the press, which really hurt.

What she did after “Ally McBeal”

But even if you have “It,” you can falter. Ally McBeal was my last Hollywood gig. After that I moved back to my hometown of New York City and stayed there for more than a decade. During that time I worked with many doctors to get as much control of my life as I could and experimented with various treatments including mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications. I’ve learned to look for the symptoms in myself: getting too euphoric or overstimulated. My bipolar disorder is usually exhibited on the high-energy and manic end. Some people who have the illness are more on the depressive side.


Before my mind and moods came under scrutiny, my body and I had already gone through a journey. I was a tomboy growing up. Then puberty hit, and seemingly overnight I had a 38DD bra size. I constantly wore sweatshirts and was mad at my body. Then I fell in love as I neared my twenties. When I realized my body could turn a man to mush, it became empowering. I was often the curvy one on set, and I felt beautiful no matter my size. I still enjoy the company of men, although dating has been interesting with my mental health condition. When I was hospitalized, I was in a relationship, and he was terrific about it. We stayed together for a while afterward. I’m not dating anyone seriously now and don’t feel pressured to do so, but I hope The One comes along.

Finding Peace 

The best thing about taking a step back was spending time with my mother. She passed in 2011. What brought me through has been medicine, prayer, music and my dog, Josephine. I see a psychiatrist and a psychologist regularly and now just take anti-anxiety medication. I’ve returned to L.A. to give my career another try. I’m going on auditions and handling rejection better than I did in the past. We recently had an Ally McBeal reunion for the TV Land Awards. It was wonderful getting dressed up and seeing everyone.

I’m tackling the myth that African-American women have to be pillars of strength. We have the right to fall. We have the right not to always have our sh– together. We just have to take our mental health as seriously as we do the physical. Do not be afraid to go to a therapist or a doctor to make sure everything is fine. I am excited for my new chapter. I now am stronger and ready for what’s next, while taking care of my emotional health.

You can read the rest of Carson’s story here.

Sexual Chocolate: The Lyon Brothers Grace The Cover Of Essence

May 12th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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The Lyon Brothers Grace The Cover Of Essence


ESSENCE Magazine is making it hot just in time for summer. The publication released their June 2015 cover and there are some fine faces on it. The Lyon Brothers, played by rapper Bryshere “Yazz” Gray, Trai Byers and Jussie Smollett, are giving us easy, breezy beach getaway on the publication’s June, vacation issue.

Inside the article, the fictional brothers open up about their road to the hit show “Empire,” reception from their fans and Trai even explained how and why he keeps himself looking so right and tight.

Check out a few of the excerpts below from

How Jussie got the role of Jamal: 

 “I jumped on Instagram and direct-messaged Lee and said, ‘Sir, I know you get this all the time, but I’m a singer, actor, dancer, songwriter and musician. I am Jamal Lyon in more ways than one.'”

Yazz’s passion for youth mentoring: 

The 21-year-old Yazz had aspirations of being in the NFL until an injury curbed those dreams. Before “Empire,” the newcomer was a YouTube sensation. But his newfound fame on the show has allowed him to reach people in more ways than one. While meeting his young fans, he heard many tales of hard times. “I would hear things like, ‘My dad was never in my life…’ and my response was, ‘My dad was never in my life…Don’t feel like you don’t matter.’

How Trai preserves his sexy: 

We all know that Trai Byers, 33, had a very good year in 2014, with the success of both “Empire” and Selma. There is also talk of an hot off-screen romance between he and co-star Grace Gealey. But did you know that the bonafided sex symbol is also a charmer? He explains why he works out and looks so damn good: “I work out for two reasons: one, because I’m an actor and two, because I’m somebody’s [future] husband. I want to be prepared for the woman God has for me.”

Ok den, Trai!

These men are so flyy, they each needed their own individual cover in addition to the group shot. You can check out all four in the gif below.


Tell me Yazz is not styling in those polka-dotted Oxfords!

Kudos to ESSENCE for giving the people what they want. You can pick up your favorite cover of this issue on newsstands now.

Serious Question: Should Mona Scott-Young Have Been Included On Essence’s Game Changers Cover?

April 28th, 2015 - By Cynthia L. Dorsey
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Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes And More Cover Essence


There is nothing like seeing someone who looks like you on the cover of a magazine. Beautiful Black women, all shades, and hues, lending their testimonies of struggle and success. That is why I felt an extreme sense of pride when I saw the May cover of Essence magazine. When I picked up the magazine, smiling back at me were five of the most prominent Black storytellers, directors, and producers who have the added bonus of being amazing women: Issa Rae, Mara Brock Akil, Debbie Allen, Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay, dressed in all white. I immediately flipped through the pages to read the article.

Over wine and cheese in Beverly Hills, these women discussed everything from the increase in the number of young people of color in the business and the positive effect it’s having on mainstream television, to the strain success has had on their personal lives. I could feel the camaraderie and respect amongst these women through the page. It was inspiring.

After I had read the article, I turned on the television, and on came Love & Hip Hop Atlanta. Out of nowhere sprang an interesting thought. I could not help but to wonder if there is room for Mona Scott-Young at the table with her fellow Black storytellers and producers?

Mona Scott-Young is the founder and CEO of Monami Entertainment. Under Monami, Scott-Young holds both film and television credits. Her most popular production is the Love & Hip Hop docu-series on VH1. The franchise is the top-rated show on VH1, with the season 4 debut of Atlanta pulling in 6.2 million viewers, marking the show’s highest rated season premiere yet.

It seems that many people have a love-hate relationship with Scott-Young. They hate the content of the Love & Hip Hop franchise, deeming it “ratchet television.” However, there has to be something people love about it because they keep tuning in every week. Within right, people are always questioning Scott-Young’s motives and why she would produce a show where Black women are portrayed as stereotypical characters who are violent, argumentative, loud, oversexed, and belittled by men. In an interview with MTV’s Sway, Scott-Young said that these women “have every right to tell their stories. I think they’re valid stories, and judging by the numbers, they’re stories that people want to see and hear about. But if this is not your cup of tea, there are other great shows on other networks that you may view as well.”

And she is right. There are other great shows on other networks to indulge in. Two of my favorites are ABC’s Scandal, written by Shonda Rhimes, and BET’s Being Mary Jane, written by Mara Brock Akil. Both ladies, as previously mentioned, graced the May cover of Essence and were touted as “Game Changers.” Scandal chronicles the turbulent life of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), Washington’s most prominent “fixer.” One major part of Olivia’s storyline is that she is having an affair with the President. Affairs seem to be pretty popular on television these days–just watch the first season of BET’s Being Mary Jane. Mary Jane Paul (Gabrielle Union) has a lucrative career in broadcast journalism and this past season, she landed the prime time anchor position on her network. Yet at the height of her career, Mary Jane finds herself single and feels that the only way she will be complete is if she gets married and has children. Mary Jane, like Olivia, in an attempt to move past a very married admirer, explores a sexual relationship with several different men. While their lives are a bit on the messy side, we tout them as complex characters. Real women.

But are characters like Olivia Pope and Mary Jane Paul also perpetuating some of the same stereotypes and negativity about Black women that Scott-Young is accused of showcasing? Are the women of Love & Hip Hop just as complicated as these two beloved protagonists?

Akil, like Scott-Young, is unapologetic about including the sexuality of black women in her stories. In the Essence article she states, “We’ve been presented before as asexual or as whores. No, I’m a human being. I’m a human being, and human beings were made to be touched and have sex so that they can make more human beings. That’s just how it works. I certainly want to highlight it. I want our humanity in our sexuality.”

Rhimes agreed with Akil and said, “I just began a systematic push that we were going to talk about sexuality equally, in the same way. We’re not going to pretend that…Listen, if you could shoot someone in the face on television…I hope to God my child never shoots someone in the face, but I really hope she has wonderful sex.”

This systematic push is evident in all of their shows, and even in Scott-Young’s programs. These women have chosen to tell the stories about Black women as authentically as they know how without allowing the burden of stereotypes to deter them from creating work they feel is necessary. Rhimes, Akil, and Scott-Young both manage to monopolize their perspective networks in a predominantly white male industry. That, in and of itself, should be commended.

Don’t get me wrong. I am disheartened by some of the women’s choices on Love & Hip Hop. Moreover, being a part of a Black Greek Letter Organization, I could not bring myself to support Sorority Sisters, a program Scott-Young was allegedly tied to at some point in time. However, even though I may disagree with some of her content, it does not lessen the history she is making on television.

As Akil said, we — Black women and men — are human. We make mistakes. We are not abnormal. We are not strange. Some of us go off to college and become successful in our careers while others may remain loyal to the ways of our ‘hoods. We are doctors, lawyers, and scientists. We are also strippers, drug addicts, and adulterers. Just like every other race, we are full of complex and very different people. Because we are ridiculed and stereotyped so much we try to hide and cover up those members of our community whom we feel don’t represent us well. However, no matter which category you may fall into from those looking from the outside in, as an individual, you do not fit in a box, and your story deserves to be told.

So should there be room for Scott-Young at the table (or on the cover) when discussing Black women who are making strides in telling our stories on film and television? Absolutely.

Game-Changers Debbie Allen, Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes & More Talk About The Black Women Who Inspired Them

April 17th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Shonda Rhimes & More Talk About The Black Women Who Inspired Them

Source: Essence

We were happy to report the news that Essence magazine was featuring a few of our favorites, Debbie Allen, Mara Brock Akil,  Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, and Shonda Rhimes, on the cover of their Mary issue.

Not only did the women look absolutely beautiful in their white, in some recent videos from behind the cover shoot, the cover girls talked about what it meant to be featured with this group of women and the Black women who inspired them to pursue careers in film and television.

Check out some of the highlights from the videos and the full clips below.

The Black woman who inspired DuVernay to tell stories

The Black woman who inspired me to be storyteller was my Aunt Denise. She was a storyteller in her own right, as many people in our families are who may not be able to amplify their stories through film, or television or books or media. She was the storyteller of our family, the keeper of our stories, the one who made sure that we were connected through our own narratives in the family. She loved film, she loved theater and she was really the person who inspired me to say that I want to tell stories and that it was ok to do that and pursue that.  


The Black woman who inspired Debbie Allen 

The Black woman that has inspired me to be in arts is really my mother, Vivian Ayers. She encouraged me to dance, to study ballet, to train, even though things were segregated in Houston, Texas. She’s also been my greatest critic, my biggest fan. She is an accomplished writer, composer, cultural activist, great cook and she’s beautiful. My mom.

The Black woman who inspired Shonda Rhimes

The Black woman who inspired me to go into show business was Whoopi Goldberg. I saw her live on Broadway show when I was about 17 and it was so brilliantly written and it really inspired and made me think that I could be writer. It was a really different kind of writing and it spoke to me. It had nothing to do with me, it had nothing to do with my life and yet it was entirely familiar. It made me feel like I could be a writer.

The Black woman who inspired Issa Rae

The Black woman who inspired me to go into show business is Gina Prince Bythewood. I remember the first time I saw Love and Basketball knowing that it was written, directed, co-produced by a Black woman, shot in my neighborhood, I just remember my eyes opening wide with like ‘Oh my gosh I can do this and I want to do this and I want to create these stories.’ I definitely credit her for me taking that leap. The first step I took was writing a script. I wrote her a letter asking her to direct the script actually. She wrote me back and encouraged me to keep writing and that was the fuel I needed. Like, ‘Yes, she wrote me back, I’m supposed to do this.’

The Black woman who inspired Mara Brock Akil 

It’s funny that Debbie Allen is here today. I remember her on “Fame” but I think when I found out that she was behind the storytelling of “A Different World” I was like, ‘I’ve got to get in that world.’ I think before, television was something that I experienced but then when I realized she was doing it and how much the stories moved me, I wanted to be a part of that conversation. It’s such an honor to be here with her because our journey has continued but for us to be documented together in this way, I’m near tears, actually I’m so excited.

I love these stories about the women who inspired them. It really illustrates how doing what excites us and following our passions can open the door for the next generation. Beautiful. You can check out the full video from the behind the cover shoot below.