‘You’ve Sold Out': Janelle Monae Faces Criticism Over Sexy “Yoga” Video

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When I watched Janelle Monáe’s new video for “Yoga,” featuring Jidenna, it absolutely brightened my day. I thought that Janelle did a great job embracing her own sexual being AND maintaining ownership of it, something that I think can get very blurry in the music industry. While I love artists like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, I sometimes wonder if they cross the line from women’s empowerment over to existing for male consumption. After all, we can only twerk so much for fun until men think that we are only doing it for them and it’s a very fine line. But then again, whatever a woman chooses to do with her body is none of my/our business.

That’s why I was so surprised to see some people commenting on “Yoga” and declaring that Janelle has “sold out” to the oversexualization of women that is often criticized in the music industry. On the YouTube comments, some viewers suggested that she was forced to do the video or she let down black women as our spirit soul sister. I was also disappointed in TIME’s description of the video, which made it sound way more raunchy than it actually is, citing “private lessons” and referencing the traditional yoga closing “namaste” as “nama-nasty.” What makes this even more ironic is that in the same week, Monáe was criticized by a Twitter user for being too soulful and not sexy enough and her response was gold:

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Shut him down, Ms. Monáe! And with “Yoga,” I don’t think that anything has changed. While the video takes on a sexier approach than we are used to from Janelle and her signature suit, the vibe I caught was more of Janet Jackson’s “You Want This” rather than Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” She’s her “own private dancer” instead of a man’s. Watching the video, I feel like this is a song I would play while having a dance party with my girlfriends, not at the strip club while bands make her dance.

I think it’s also important to note that there isn’t one flavor of women’s empowerment or feminism – policing a woman towards either side of the spectrum is equally damaging. Some seem to have the perception that to be respected, especially as a black woman, you need to cover up and are only allowed to talk about building up the self esteem of black women (which also is very important). But we can also have a little bit of fun with it. Empowerment is about being comfortable in your own skin and knowing your worth, which Monáe clearly lets us know as she levitates in all white and a gold crown. Excuse me while I get my entire life (and look at that BRAID!).

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I think Ms. Monáe actually said it best – “You cannot police me, so get off my areola.” True story. Peep the video in full:

What do you think of Janelle Monáe’s new “Yoga” video? Are you on the fence or all for it?

**This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair**

Fitness Inspiration: #YogaAfterDark with Jessica Tara

When one of my long time curlfriends tweeted that @jesstaras was her best follow of 2015, I had to see what was up. After browsing through her pics for a bit, I found myself clapping in my head, raising the roof, and convincing myself to go to the gym, all at the same time. Her posts are sexy, insightful, and just plain awesome.

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I was excited to pick her brain about fitness, hair, and women’s empowerment – here’s what she had to say:

How long have you been doing yoga? How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been practicing yoga for 10 years, and teaching for five years. I received my first Yoga Teacher Certification at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health (2010) and my master Yoga Teacher Certification with Sacred Lasya in India in (2013). I’m also a certified personal trainer and I’m currently finishing up my B.A. in Dance.

YogaAfterDark is fierce, sexy, and empowering – what made you start posting your skills on Instagram?
Thank you. I strive to convey all of those things through my pictures so it’s nice to know that it’s being well received. Throughout the years, I had posted a few yoga poses here and there but I never really started posting regularly until January 1, 2015. I made sort of a “New Year’s resolution” to post one yoga picture a day for the year. It started as just a way to improve my alignment in poses by looking at the pictures and also just a fun social media experiment. But it’s snowballed into what is now a statement on female empowerment, body confidence, art, and freedom of expression.

My favorite aspect of the whole project is the people who contact me sharing that they’ve been inspired to start yoga or some other venture they’ve been putting off. Or that they were inspired to be bold and wear that red lipstick they’ve been too shy to wear. One woman even said she was inspired to pull out a cheeky bikini that’s been sitting in the back of her closet unworn because she wasn’t sure if she could pull it off. That one really made me smile. Go, girl. Wear that bikini and wear it proud!

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In addition to yoga, how do you stay fit? Do you have any nutrition tips for our readers?
I’m also a dancer, so I take ballet, modern, and hip-hop classes almost every day – that definitely gets me sweating! Another aspect of my fitness, and one which I really want to emphasize, is that I’m a bike commuter. I own a car, but I very rarely drive it. My road bike is my primary form of transportation, rain or shine. I love it because it doesn’t “feel” like exercise. I just get on, start pedaling, and cruise – to work, to class, to lunch with friends. I’ve really gotten to know a different side of my city as a bike commuter. It’s a totally different view than from inside the car. My gas budget is almost nil. Plus, it’s good for the environment (and my glutes).

Your inspirational posts often center around encouraging girls and women (I love those!) – do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
I am an advocate of female empowerment and empowerment in general. My work deals a lot with body confidence, anti-bullying, anti-slut shaming, and non-judgement. It’s crucial that we as women stand together, encourage one another, and support each other. Enough of calling each other “sluts,” enough of picking out each other’s physical flaws, enough of this “You can’t sit with us” mentality. You can sit with me. And this doesn’t just apply to women. It applies to everyone.

Have you always worn your natural hair? If not, when did you go natural and why?
I straightened my hair for years until, around the age of 21, I chopped it all off. I wanted something new and different. As my hair grew back, I developed a different appreciation for it. I realized that it wasn’t something I had to fight against, it wasn’t this wild beast that needed to be tamed. It was a crown. It was a blessing. After I started wearing my hair natural I got all kinds of comments about how “bold” and “brave” I was being. At first I thought “this isn’t a political statement – I woke up like dis.” But now I understand what they meant. It does require confidence to be your natural, authentic self, especially in a roomful of people who are not like you. Natural hair is big. It’s bold. We have to own it. Wearing my hair natural was a milestone in my personal journey of self-acceptance.

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How do you care for your natural hair? Is your regimen simple or more complicated?
I try to keep it as simple as possible because I’m always on the go. I co-wash/detangle every few days. Coconut oil is my best friend. I also use a leave-in conditioner daily (currently using Kinky Curly Knot Today). If I want my hair to have that extra oomph, I’ll wet it and blow it out using a diffuser (low heat!).

Do you have any tips for ladies on preserving your natural hair while working out frequently?
The more you sweat, the more you will have to wash your hair so conditioning is vital. I try to plan out my Bikram classes (yoga done in a room heated to 104F – you sweat A LOT) for right before wash days. Aside from that, I either style my hair into two pigtail-buns (my go-to hairstyle) or the infamous pineapple ponytail with a headband to catch the sweat. It’s work, but it’s worth it.

Your double puffs are too cute – What are your favorite natural hairstyles?
Thank you! The double puffs are my go-to daily hair style because it’s simple and neat for yoga, and it fits the dress code for my ballet class. But my absolute favorite way to wear it is all out, loud and proud. I feel most like myself when I’m rocking my lion’s mane!

Anything else you’d like to tell us? Any mantras to share?
Gandhi said that happiness is “when what we think, say, and do are all in alignment.” Be your most authentic self. Be kind. Do you. And in doing so, you will inspire others to do the same.

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**Can I just say that I love this interview? Such a kickass sweetheart. Make sure you follow Jess on Instagram (@jesstaras) for more pics and inspiration. Namaste!

**This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair**

Lies or Marketing? Can We Trust Natural Celebs When They Discuss Their Favorite Products?

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin this post, I want to make it very clear that I am not bashing Tracee Ellis Ross or any other company spokesperson, in any way, shape, or form. My intention is to call out the practice of masked advertising and sponsored promotion as an educated consumer.

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I recall the first time I read about Tracee Ellis Ross’ hair routine and favorite products in the NY Times, calling out Kim Kimble, Bumble and Bumble, Aestelance, and Moraccanoil. Less than a year later, she was interviewed by Curly Nikki and listed Optimum Care 6-in-1 Oil and Moisturizer as her favorite products, which obviously caused a lot of discussion in the curly hair community since she is a frequently mentioned (and admired) curly idol for a lot of women. It wasn’t until I learned that she had recently become the latest spokesperson for Softsheen-Carson/Optimum Care that this made sense as it was not mentioned at all in the previous interview. Fast forward to today – Glamour released an interview with Tracee Ellis Ross last week sharing her “favorite” curly hair products, which called out Optimum Care’s Amla line.

I’m sure you’re reading this like, okay, so what? Well, here’s the thing: it’s becoming more and more difficult to identify what is an ad and what isn’t. In the social media age, celebrities are constantly posting pictures of their lives online and brands are seeking quick publicity by paying them to post their products. And while the Federal Trade Commission has attempted to regulate this type of activity, it’s nearly impossible to prove that a celeb isn’t posting or mentioning a product simply because they like it. The same goes for interviews – it’s a classic public relations tactic to “pitch” products to celebrities’ management and send them for free or flat out pay for mentions.

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If you aren’t an informed consumer (and love buying the same products as your fave celebs), you may be misled to buy products that you otherwise would have never touched. I mean, look at the Optimum Care Amla Oil‘s ingredients – the first two ingredients are cyclopentasiloxane and dimethicone and actual amla oil is towards the end – hardly impressive. Their Damage Antidote Oil Moisturizer lists mineral oil as the second ingredient. Yea, I’ll pass.

But hey, they really might be Tracee’s favorite products. I know that I’ve fallen in love with products after they were sent to me. Either way, I guess we’ll never know (definitely not trying to mess up her coins, lol), so make sure you are looking at ingredients when you’re looking for new products and not flocking to products just because your fave curly claims to love them. Even if their hair is absolutely gorgeous.

How do you think transparency should be enforced with celebrities?

**This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair.

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Empties and Mini Product Reviews Volume II

Hey all, today I’m going to do mini reviews for 5 natural hair/curly hair products that I’ve used up recently: Broo conditioners (2), Mineral Fusion Curl Care Conditioner, Nubian Heritage Honey and Black Seed Protectant Leave-In,  and Nubian Heritage Indian Hemp and Tamanu Growth and Strengthen Treatment Masque.

More details below!

Hair: 2nd day wng w/ CJ Curl Rehab + Biotera Gel, w/ Camille Rose pomade on ends. Fluffed out 2nd day hair w/ pomade.

Empty Products:

Broo Smoothing: http://www.drugstore.com/broo-conditioner-silky-spice-smoothing-i-p-a-/qxp469348?catid=183457
Ingredients: Beer, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Behentrimonium Chloride, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Diheptyl Succinate, Caprylol Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid

Broo Hydrating: http://www.drugstore.com/broo-conditioner-warm-vanilla-hydrating-porter/qxp469346?catid=183457
Ingredients: Beer, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Behentrimonium Chloride, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Diheptyl Succinate, Caprylol Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid

Pros: Smell/some slip/strengthening/rinses clean
Cons: Not really moisturizing/price
Repurchase: Maybe in a pinch

Mineral Fusion Curl Care Conditioner: http://mineralfusion.com/index.php/shop/body-and-hair/hair-care/new-look-curl-care-shampoo-conditioner
Ingredients: Aqua, Aloe Barbadensis (Leaf Juice/jus de feuilles)*, Cetearyl Alcohol, Panthenol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunower Seed Oil/l’huile de graines de tournesol)*, Stearalkonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Malachite (Extract/extrait), Smithsonite (Extract/extrait), Rhodochrosite (Extract/extrait), Hematite (Extract/extrait), Argania Spinosa (Kernel Oil/kernal huile), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter/le beurre de karité)*, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Olea Europaea (Olive Leaf Extract/extrait de feuilles d’olivier), Lecithin, Astrocaryum Murumuru (Seed Butter/beurre de graine), Tocopherol, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed Seed Oil/l’huile de graine delin)*, Citric Acid, Titanium Dioxide, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Seed Oil/l’huile de graines de jojoba)*, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Natural Fragrance/Fragrance Naturelle (Parfum)

Pros: Nice slip/moisturizing/good for detangling
Cons: smell/marketing (maybe?)
Repurchase: Yes

Nubian Heritage Honey and Black Seed Protectant Leave-In: https://www.nubianheritage.com/collections/honey-black-seed-with-keratin/honey-black-seed-heat-protect-leave-in-conditioning-cream
Ingredients: Deionized Water, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil*, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Oil*, Macadamia Ternifolia (Macadamia) Seed Oil*, Orbignya Oleifera (Babassu) Seed Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Honey, Sorbitol Esters, Castor Oil, Black Seed Oil, Centrimonium Choloride (Conditioning Salt), Keratin, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Oil, Vegetable Protein, Proprietary Essential Oil Blend

Pros: Nice slip going on/absorbs well/moisturizing/versatile/softening
Cons: smell
Repurchase: Maybe

Nubian Heritage Indian Hemp and Tamanu Growth and Strengthen Treatment Masque: https://www.nubianheritage.com/collections/indian-hemp-tamanu/indian-hemp-tamanu-grow-strengthen-treatment-masque
Ingredients: Deionized water, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter)*, cannabis sativa (hemp) seed oil, calophyllum (tamanu) oil, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, cetyl esters, panthenol (vitamin B-5), bambusa vulgaris (bamboo) extract, tiare (gardenia tahitensis) flower, allium sativum (garlic) extract, melia azadirachta (neem) seed oil, behentrimonium choloride (conditioning salt), proprietary essential oil blend, lonicera caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower (and) lonicera japonica (japanese honeysuckle) flower extract, keratin, tocopherol (vitamin E), hyssopus officinalis extract, salvia officinalis (sage) leaf and equisetum arvense extract, soybean oil

Pros: Ingredients/strengthening
Cons: lack of slip/lack of moisture/smell
Repurchase: No

Recent Videos
PixieFit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xup2PBf_Mks
Wash and Go Wars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RVYA6TabnE

Quest for the Perfect Curl is a YouTube channel dedicated to healthy hair practices and products that are especially beneficial to women with naturally curly hair. I initially started blogging in order to track my own hair journey and progress, and along the way, I picked a few tips and products (okay, maybe more than a few). Hope you enjoy the channel & find some good information here. Welcome!

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FTC: This video is sponsored by long holiday breaks, snow days, and no buys. All products were purchased by me and all thoughts are my own.