You may know of Necole Kane from her years as the brains and face behind the gossip site, Necole Bitchie. And while we all got all of the latest tea from the popular page, which flourished for years, the commitment she had to the page, causing sleep deprivation, poor eating habits and a lot of stress, was wearing Kane thin behind the scenes.
“That was just the lifestyle a lot of us in entertainment are living, where we’re probably eating one time a day, if that, and not drinking a lot of water,” she said.
It took a visit to the doctor’s office in 2014 to give her the wake-up call that she needed. But instead of just trying to take better care of herself, Kane did an overhaul on her health, physical and mental. She started training to put on muscle so she could compete in and win bikini competitions. She went from eating once a day to six times. And she also made the very hard but very necessary decision to move on from the gossip world of Necole Bitchie to the women’s empowerment she encourages with her site, XONecole. None of this has been easy for the 38-year-old, but it was all worth it. Check out her story about not just her health and fitness shift, but her overall life transformation.
MadameNoire: Growing up, were you always naturally thin?
NecoleBitchie: I actually come from a family of very tall women who were kind of heavyset. My grandmother probably was like the shortest of us all. She was 5’0″ but she was over 300 pounds. She was extremely obese. A lot of the other family members just dealt with like, being kind of overweight. We were kind of southern even though we’re not from down South, we’re from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. And so our eating habits were just like, fried foods, grease, using cooking grease over and over for different things. That type of thing.
Did anybody ever give you any kind of flack about being naturally thin considering your familial background?
I didn’t really get uncomfortable with being thin or people calling me thin until I got to college. I had a friend, she’s still a friend of mine today, but sometimes your friends will say something like, “Girl! With your skinny self.” Joking, but in a way, kind of insulting. So I would have people do that. And in college I know I wore very baggy clothes. It was when Aaliyah was in and she kind of made baggy clothes cool, so I would wear a very baggy jean while all the girls at Morgan State University were wearing the fitted Parasuco pants, skinny jeans. I was walking around in baggy jeans because I just wasn’t comfortable with my body.
Recently, we posted something on XONecole’s Instagram where a girl tweeted, “Not all Black women are made to be curvy.” We’re all not one body type. And I was like, “YES!” to that. Because when you do come up and you’re Black and you don’t have curves or a big booty or whatever, people tease you for it or insult you for it.
When it comes to your body, I read different things you know, about you going through a dark place and even being malnourished at one point. Can you recall and share the catalyst behind deciding taking your health and fitness so seriously?
For me it started back in 2014. It was a monumental year. One, I used to date a guy and I felt like he would say things, you know, indirectly about my body. It made me feel very uncomfortable with, again, being a Black woman but not being curvy, not having a big booty. And I remember thinking, “This is the last time I will ever have someone make me feel that way about myself.” I’m so glad like I’m in a state or space in my life right now where I’m very comfortable with myself, who I am, and I’m very self-aware. And there’s no one that can come in my life to say anything. This guy said to me on social media the other day, “You’re too muscular. I don’t date women who are muscular.” That’s fine! Because I would never date you anyway! [laughs] Fool, bye!
I also went to a doctor because I had missed my period for like four or five months. My period was never regular to begin with, and here I am like 34 at the time. I’m 34 years old and still not having regular periods. But it had been a while and I went to the doctor and when I went there, in the beginning the nursing assistant they try to take your heart rate, etc. She could not take mine. She was like “Girl!” — she was joking but not really — “are you alive?”
It’s a monumental thing because that was the year before I closed down my site and I didn’t feel alive, you know. I was existing, but I didn’t feel like I was really living and that I was alive. But they did all this blood work and they kept calling me after the blood work and I thought, “This must be bad.” So I finally go in and it was like this 40-page report of my blood work. I was like, “Lord, they’re going to tell me I have everything under the sun.” And basically I was fine except I was extremely malnourished and extremely dehydrated, lacking every vitamin. My body was breaking down and at the time, I was a gossip blogger. I probably wake up, you know, roll over, log into the Internet. And by the time 5 o’ clock rolled around, I hadn’t eaten yet.
I had already lost my parents at a young age. They were 41 and 42 when they passed. So the doctor told me, “You’re 34 years old and it’s like you’re almost going down the same path.” Like you’re not going to live longer if you continue this. That was like the turning point for me. In 2014, I moved to Arizona. I got on this fitness journey. I started eating right. I started really getting into self-care and fitness and I changed my eating habits and I changed everything because I realized that we don’t pass down diseases in our family, we passed down the eating habits that lead to the diseases. I have no living grandparents, aunts have passed away, and it’s all health related. So I wanted to stop the cycle, so that’s how I really got on this fitness and health journey. Now my health comes before my career because it comes before everything.
And have you always been interested in getting in bikini competitions? If not, what kind of inspired you to start stepping into that?
Well, I’ve talked to a lot of friends who want to make a lifestyle change, but there is no real end goal so it’s hard for them. The only time they really stick to a lifestyle change is if they go to the doctor and the doctor gives them news, like they have a heart disease, or they have like 16 fibroids. All of a sudden now it’s “I have to change.” I didn’t want it to get to that space where I got some heartbreaking health news for me to really go through that lifestyle change. But if I didn’t have something to work toward, I probably wouldn’t have kept it up. So when I started the health and the fitness, I chose a show, which was in March. I was like, “I’m going to do a bikini competition and get on stage.” I’ve never been the type of person who likes to wear a bikini and show my body at all. I told you, I wore baggy clothes when I was in college. So I had to conquer all types of fears to get on that stage.
You eat six meals a day. How do you fit eating six meals a day and your exercise regimen into your busy schedule?
Well, first, meal prepping is important. Because if not, you have to go purchase food, and that’s half of the battle. Not knowing when you’re going to eat the next meal. So definitely, I meal prep. I always have a meal on deck for when I get hungry. I also set alarms for the times I need to eat. By 11, my alarm might go off and say “Meal 2, three liters of water down” just to make sure I’m on track throughout the day. So that’s how I kind of fit it in. It’s difficult. I was at Essence Fest recently and I did Cincinnati Music Fest recently too, and both of those are three-day music festival weekends. Of course, it’s hard to eat six meals when you’re out and you’re on the scene. Meals get skipped. But for the most part, when I’m at home and I’m working, I’m able to keep up with it.
And can you speak on how exercise is your form of self care? Because I know I read on your Instagram, you quoted the statement that when exercise stops, everything falls apart. Like you said, you notice all of these physiological changes, but also emotionally, I’m sure in terms of like mental health, endorphins, all the positive things that come from exercising, that helped as well to keep you going. So can you kind of speak on how all of this became self-care for you?
I’m kind of glad you asked that because I just did a podcast with a retired NFL player, Arian Foster. He used to play for the Houston, Texans. He retired early. Our stories are similar. You know, he left football before people thought he would. I left blogging before people thought I would. But I wanted to bring him up because, you know, I think people think of self-care as a woman thing. But what happened was because Arian had so much time after retirement, because he used to go and train every day, be in the gym in the morning and on the field, now that he’s retired, he’s more involved in social media. He’s more involved in the conversations and the news and what’s going on. And what happened was recently he had an anxiety attack. He felt like he was gonna die.
The ambulance came and everything and they checked his heart rate and all this other stuff and they were just like, you’re fine. You just had an anxiety attack. I just felt that come on for myself last week. When I take a few days off from exercises — because in the morning, what I do every morning is before I start anything, before I plug into the Internet, etc, I go downstairs to the gym in the basement of my building and I run for 30 minutes. I might do a light workout, but that run is not for working out. It’s a part of it. But the most Important part of my run or walking on an incline or sprint, whatever I do, is I make sure I’m listening to a motivational podcast or YouTube video or some type of message for 30 minutes.
That’s how I start every morning. And I noticed that in doing that, it sets my mind frame up to conquer the rest of the day. So if I omit that from my morning routine at any given morning because I might wake up and decide I’m going to plug into my emails first or work or social media or Twitter or whatever, I feel anxiety and depression coming on before 11:00 a.m. even rolls around. And so I realized fairly quickly that it’s all a part of my self-care. First of all, it’s like putting my shield on. You have to have a serious, constant shield before you plug into the outside world. It’s about managing the energy that I allow in my space and just managing again, my mind frame, my perspective and make sure I go into each day with a positive outlook before the world comes in and starts making comments and sharing commentary and all this other stuff.
How important are these changes considering your history with depression? How do these efforts help you to maintain your mental health as well?
It’s 100 percent important. It’s funny because I was doing a interview recently and I had to talk about the mind frame I was in when I was Necole Bitchie. What is that like, getting up and having to be on top of the news as soon as you wake up? I actually teared up a little because I felt that heaviness and what that felt like to me years ago and how depressed I was. So now, it’s crazy how my life is set up. The most important thing I want to tell people is that a part of my self-care has been setting up boundaries. And what I mean by that is like when I say I’ll say no in a heartbeat? I’ve set so many boundaries and even at work, people know they can’t reach me before a certain time. You can’t! I need boundaries [laughs].
You establish those boundaries, even with people that are close to you. They could be loved one. It could be your own parents. You may notice when they call you, you have a feeling before you even pick up the phone. There’s just this feeling of almost anxiety that comes on before you even answer the phone when certain people call. When you set boundaries, you no longer answer those people’s calls anymore. I’ll send you a text every now and then [laughs], but I can’t allow you to have access to me because you are a part of what makes me not feel so good. So that has been a very important part of my self-care as well, creating boundaries.
How was making that change and leaving behind your old site, though hard for you, good for you as well?
I will say, thank God I became very self-aware around 2014 after the whole doctor visit thing, because I realized the life I wanted to live, there’s no way I could run a site like Necole Bitchie and live that life. I wanted a life of peace. I wanted calmness. I wanted empowerment. Inspiration. And there’s no way I could have that in my life. I couldn’t even have a good functional relationship running a site like that. And then there was a time where all the men that were married were having babies outside of their marriages. I don’t know if you remember that. But you’re reporting on all of this stuff, and it’s subconsciously affecting the way you even view relationships.
I had to start being conscious of that, what I was taking in, the message I was taking in about even relationships. That’s why I’m so glad Barack Obama and Michelle were in office around the last few years that I had my website because that kind of balanced out what we were reporting on. You’ve got this Black man who loves his wife and treated her like a queen, and you know, had a family and adores his family. So he became the epitome of what I was looking for in a partner and in a man. But I say this to say, the changes I wanted to make in my life, I knew I would have to change my brand. My brand, XONecole, evolved me so much as a woman. When I had Necole Bitchie. I felt like I just sat at one age. I never grew up. So now when I tell people I’m about to turn 38, they’re like “What?!” I never really grew up until I left my old brand and started a new one. Now this content that we’re putting out every day and all these women and their different stories, and they’re inspirations and entrepreneurs, they inspire me. And every time I look at XONecole’s Instagram, there’s always something inspirational on there. Always! Our newsletters are inspirational. So it really helped create, like we said, this light, and peace, and wellness and journey of self-care that I’m on. It’s fine to have self-care and wellness, but then you have a job that’s bringing your spirit down. You spend most of your day doing the work you do. We don’t work two hours a day. We work more like eight to 10. So that’s the bulk of our day that we’re awake. And so you have to have a job or do work that’s going to align with who you are becoming eventually.
So true. I do want to ask you, in terms of your future with like fitness competitions and bikini competitions, do you see yourself competing for the long-term and turning pro and all of that or are you just glad in the moment?
No! I didn’t learn until this year that there are levels to this competition thing. I was just doing it for fun, and then I found out you could go pro and I’m like, “What?” And I found out, once you go pro, you’re competing with the top girls. I don’t want to be amateur. I’m competing on the amateur level?! No, I want to compete on the highest level there is. So that changed everything. I found out about the pro levels in March of this year and I got first place at that show. I also qualified to compete nationally for my pro card. And once I found out how all of that works, I was like, “Oh, I gotta get my pro card this year.”
I knew that you could go pro, and I knew the concept of it, but I really got it in March. And so I did my first national show in June and I missed getting my pro card by one. You had to have first place, and in the class I competed in I got second. I’m kind of glad I didn’t get it that first time. I competed again, July 18, and I missed it by two. I got third place. Still glad I didn’t get it because now like my mind frame is so different and now I want it badder than I wanted it before. I’m hoping that this third show, August 29, before my birthday, is going to be the one where I get my pro card.
Note: She successfully received her pro card after the competition on August 29!
Lastly, I did want to ask you, what would you say to other women who are fearful of taking a leap that could change their life, like in the way that you did, both in terms of like fitness but also in career. What kind of advice would you offer to people, because a lot of us feel like we have to stay put.
Well what I say to them is, you know, people say, “You’re so brave.” But I knew it was time to leave my site in 2010. That was two years in, and I didn’t leave it until 2015. That was five years later. And the same goes for like a relationship you’re in and you know you’ve got to move on but you guys like the apartment you share together. You might have a child together. You know, you have all these things that are holding you in a situation that you’ve outgrown. I say to people, everyone has to go through a major transition in their life, but at some point you’re going to go through a major transition, either you choose to and you choose what happens to you and you take the reins and you make the first move, or the way the universe is set up, and God, He’s going to do it for you. What I mean by that is, you can get a job that you’re scared to leave and you’re sticking it out or whatever, when it’s time for you to go through that transition — and what I mean by He does it for you, that’s when you get laid off. You wanted to leave, but that was God pushing you out. So you could make the choice and start planning how you’re going to make the transition or you’re going to eventually be forced out. God is going to move you in the direction He wants you to go in, but you might not be as prepared.